Immigrant soul

He asked if immigration ever ends. I think he meant if you ever stop evolving into something new. I said no, it doesn’t end. If you are the analytical, critical, curious, stubborn, unrelenting type, you constantly change. You constantly try to be better. You constantly strive for perfection, for improvement.
I am now beyond improving my English. I am now trying to expand my experiences. I am trying to educate myself culturally, musically, historically. I am listening to music I haven’t heard before. I am more open to saying I have no idea what something is without feeling shame. It used to be that I would feel this great sense of shame, embarrassed by all the things I didn’t know, all the knowledge I lacked, all the things I couldn’t relate to. Something as minuscule as not knowing a certain television show made me feel stupid. If I didn’t get a joke because it was related to a cultural reference, I would get upset. I was frustrated that I had missed the cartoons my non-immigrant friends had watched as children, and could therefore now reminisce.
I don’t mind saying, that above all things, I am an immigrant, and I will remain one until I die. I can never be reborn. I can never go back in time, so it is inevitable that I remain an immigrant. It’s not a status, and it’s more complicated than simply an identity. It’s a characteristic. It’s intrinsic. It’s difficult; it never is easy. Obviously, the speaking becomes more fluid, and the capacity to understand and respond quickly improves. I never had an accent, so that never needed work. But even that, if present from the start, may loosen, or completely disappear.
This isn’t to say we all want to assimilate and lose everything we had from our previous lives. At least, that isn’t my goal. Assimilation is a complex term, and I think it gets misused often. Self-improvement, and self criticism do not mean you let go of your soul. They mean that you think more reflectively about who you are now in relation to your new home. Perhaps you try and read more to better your new language. You add a few friends who can practice this new culture and language with you, and who can also teach you. It is not that you forget your past. You can’t push a button and become something you are not. You simply adapt and expand your knowledge and your vocabulary. You become bilingual, and you deal with the duality of your identity, of your body, of your self. Your soul is the same. You love the person inside of you, no matter the language it speaks.
I am always reminded of how hard those first months, first years were. If I stop and think, I cry because I still remember how painful the shame was, how utterly lonely my world was, how impossible it felt to cope. It’s a good reminder now. I can remind myself of how much I’ve accomplished, and how far I’ve come. Certain songs remind me of that time, certain television shows, and movies. It was a dark time, and my mother remembers how I stopped laughing. I grew up, at 11 years of age, because I simply couldn’t bare the pain.
My immigrant soul still continues to search for more. The search for perfection may be futile, but the hunger for discovery is invaluable.

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