Diary of an Expatriate
I’m moving to Canada.
To answer the first question, it’s not just about the Trump administration.
Don’t get me wrong, the election definitely did not turn out the way I wanted it to or the way I was lead to believe it would, and yes it was absolutely heart breaking. I was a devoted Bernie backer from the beginning. Before he formally announced his campaign, when his interest in the primary race was just a whisper of a dream, I jumped on that bandwagon and rode it until he himself reminded everyone of us why it was so important to vote for Hillary Clinton. Trump’s victory did and still does terrify me. But honestly, even though I voted for Hillary, my true candidate lost long before November 8th.
I’m not writing this to explain my personal politics. I’m not writing this in an attempt to convert or educate anyone. This isn’t a warning to fix the country. Because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. The only thing I do know is that my future is in Toronto and there are a lot of issues that I need to come to terms with as an American who’s about to become an expatriate. This is a learning experience and the point of writing about it is to chronicle what I go through and what goes through my mind. I’ve already started tackling different emotional cycles filled with both negatives as positives. For all of the excitement, amazement, and gratitude I have, I am also struggling with guilt, doubt, and fear. As right as the decision feels for me, anxiety is still wreaking havoc. This is one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made in my life, if not the biggest decision. There are definitely thoughts and memories I need to get out.
I know on election night a lot of people googled how to immigrate, there was so much activity that the Canadian immigration website crashed. More so than ever in history, Americans were looking to for the emergency exit.
The big difference is that I had already done my research on Canadian visas and immigration years ago. In 2012 I ended up moving to Denver, a location I honestly never would have chosen for myself. I’m not going to get into the specifics of it, but several weeks after moving across the country, I ended up homeless for several months. I was soon able to get a job and lived out of a crappy motel, saving my pennies to eventually move into an apartment with a roommate. But that first half year in Denver was probably the hardest of my life, and there were so many nights I didn’t think I was ever going to pull myself together. One of my biggest issues is that I suffer from a panic disorder and pretty intense anxiety, which was going untreated. I lacked health insurance or the means to see even a normal physician, not to mention a psychiatrist.
Almost every night I would lie awake, staring at the stained motel ceiling, thinking about how much different my life would be if I had access to, even sub par, mental healthcare. I rode a bus over two hours each way to get to work, and the majority of those rides were spent planning my escape. Escape from Colorado back to my home state. Escape from this country into Canada. Escape from the life I was stuck in. Before I left for the Mile High City, my ex boyfriend had given me a crappy old laptop, knowing I wouldn’t be able to bring my desktop. Charity. Most of my free time was spent trying to stay connected to the motel’s spotty wi-fi and cataloging the various methods I would be able to legally immigrate and the steps I had to take in order to make this future a reality. Toronto, Vancouver, Regina, Winnipeg, I looked up living conditions, weather patterns, jobs, and schools almost everywhere across the country. Part of this research was fantasy. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to immigrate or leave America. But the desire was very, very real.
I eventually moved back to the Midwest, about 40 minutes from where I grew up. I went back to school, got an apartment of my own, found a therapist, and if I’m really honest, am probably the most stable I’ve ever been in my life. Both mentally and financially. My life has been coming back together and it didn’t take fleeing the country or getting a “fresh” start. I think this speaks to the resilience of human beings. No matter how bad things get, there is always a way out. Even on the days when I had no hope for myself or my future, life still had good things in store for me.
For the past couple years things have been good, and the idea of immigrating turned more into a goal. I kept telling myself to wait until I finished my degree, then I could move to Toronto. Then I started thinking it would be prudent to finish my Master’s degree here as well. More and more, moving out of the country turned into a beautiful option for the future, instead of a maniacal attempt to escape. I started to envision what my life could be like living all over the world too. What if I moved to Iceland or somewhere else in Europe? What if I moved to Australia? What if I decided to stay in the country I call home and moved to Seattle or even back to Chicago? Granted, these were all just fantasies and my reality is much more limited by a very, very meager income, but my hopes were (and still are) set high.
I’ve always believed that it was important for one to make the most of any opportunities life decided to hand over. People all over the country are born, live, and die with certain amounts of privilege and disadvantage. To suggest that people go out and “make” their own opportunities is sometimes ridiculous. It’s also extremely obvious that certain people, given their privilege, will naturally come across more opportunities than others. That being said, I still believe if life presents a good opportunity for me it’s my obligation to take it.
Right now I’ve been offered and opportunity. A close friend and business partner is moving himself and his parents to the Toronto area. He’ll be heading up first and finding a place for his parents later. I also have friends already living in the area who have graciously offered to house us until we can get our situations settled. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if I wait to leave, conditions might never be this ideal ever again. We both have a handful of different ways we can obtain visas, and American’s do have 6 month tourist visas with a passport that will allow us to get a head start.
Our departure date is in a little over six weeks. We’ve both given notice to our current landlords. My friend is quietly liquidating his assets and the assets of his parents. I will be putting two weeks notice in at my job after the new year. We’ve pretty much hit the point of no return.
Do I feel like a traitor? A deserter? Sort of. I mostly feel like a sneak. I haven’t told anyone in my family that I’m leaving, and I’ve been very selective of the friends I’ve told. I know that most of my (predominantly Trump supporting) family will be pissed that I’m leaving. I know that a handful of my friends will try to talk me out of it. Hence the alias and hence the reason I’m waiting until after the new year to tell everyone.
Since the election I’ve been pretty vocal about taking a stand against the President-Elect if his administration attempts to do what he says they will. I still feel like I have a stake in this country even though I’ll no longer be in it. This is still the country in which I was born and I still care about the people who live here. And you know what? Things might turn out fine.
But I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I think that things are going to get bad. While I know Canada has problems of it’s own, I feel like it will be a much more stable place to be in the future.
That’s why I’m getting out. And in the event that things get really bad, I feel like I’ll be in a better position to help other people get out as well.