How my immigrant experience prepared me for the pandemic
This tweet by Bettina Makalintal (@bettinamak) hit home. Hard.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot during 2020. Did my immigrant experience prepare me for this pandemic?
My husband and I are immigrants and both our parents are in our respective home countries. Every year during the holidays, when we’re asked what our plans are it’s either traveling or by ourselves at home. Out of almost 20 years, I’ve lived in the States only a handful of the holidays was celebrated with family. For many years, we either couldn’t afford to go, work got in the way, or for other reasons beyond our control.
During Thanksgiving, if not traveling, we would get together with our other international friends, make favorite foods from our countries, share stories and try to feel less lonely together.
Most of the years, it’s just the two of us. Some of our friends think this is sad and others that it’s cool. We are used to it, it’s what we chose. We chose to be far from our countries and family, so we can have the life that we want. And just because we chose to, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve been communicating with my parents and friends back home digitally since I moved away, that hasn’t changed.
What’s different this year is that we are not traveling and we can’t get together with our friends. There is no escape from this pandemic. There is no escape from solitude and thoughts. Like many, I don’t know when (and if) I will see my parents. I know deep down that they probably won’t be visiting again. It breaks my heart despite the fact that this has been the case ever since I immigrated.
Knowing and understanding something doesn’t mean it hurts less. It’s a constant reminder of how vulnerable we are as humans as well as resilient in the face of adversity. I try to stay positive and thankful for all those times we did get to see our family and friends. Those memories are a bit sweeter and more meaningful.
While physically distanced, this feeling of solitude has brought us closer. I hope this means that we will understand each other a little bit more. If you’re choosing to stay away from your family this holiday season, please know that you’re not alone. This pandemic will pass and holiday gatherings will resume, whether with family, your chosen family, or traveling. Until then prepare and enjoy your favorite meal, play some good music, and know that we will get through this together, separately.