September 2010

New York is my second immigration. The process of assimilating to a new city, a new way of life, a faster pace, costlier living, costlier education, a new college experience (private university with a prestigious name), all of this is my second immigration. After 11 years of living in Tehran, speaking Farsi and hating elementary school, my next eleven years were in northern Virginia. Today, I have moved to New York a third time, this time to graduate in May. I have plans to stay, but because I change my mind a lot, and because circumstances change and I don’t always do what I say I will, I will refrain from the future tense.
Today, now, here I am living on Third Avenue, East 97th street. I am new to the area. I have only discovered a small, quick grocery store, a salon, a bakery and a dry cleaners. I take the 6 downtown everyday for class and in the thirty minute ride, I hover in my seat, or in a corner as I try to breathe with the increase of passengers. I like to people watch, but sometimes people watching makes me feel intimidated, like I am worthless and powerless and everyone else is trendy and fashionable and well, a New Yorker. So I don’t people watch on these occasions. I think about myself and how doubtful I am about everything I’ve done so far. I think about the money I don’t have, the money I owe to various loan companies, banks, etc, I think about my major, I think about my writing and where it’s going, where it hasn’t, I think about my friends, how few they are, I think about the friends who are not here and who would be very proud of me if they saw me doing what I do everyday and I think about my mom and dad and how blessed I am and how sorry I am to have caused them so much stress by moving to a stressful city, by my second immigration.
I am an immigrant. I am the daughter of immigrants. My family is an immigrant. What I do, how I dress, how I speak, what I eat won’t change that, won’t make it easier. But I am happy with my status. I struggle, but the struggle is worth it. And when I am feeling down and the subways and sounds and my inability to credit myself for the things I have done at my 22 years don’t come nearly to my rescue, I become more aware of what I am and why it is that life is always a struggle.
I write to cope with the reality that I am never going to be as good and as exceptional as I imagine my ancestors would want me to be. Okay, I just said because it sounded good. I write to cope with my personal disappointment with myself. Coming to New York, I thought I had to be super special, that I had to possess extra talent, extra drive and just so much more than what I came with. I thought I would have to have some kind of creative idea, some super knowledge about the world, some kind of initiative. But all I came with was a bunch of suitcases, a few good letters of recommendation and whole list of unread books. My writing was good, but far from impressionable. Though I often get the praise from professors, I don’t feel the brilliance that I used to think I may have had the potential for.
So why change my life and make things complicate, why stress and doubt all to say I am not and will never be good enough. Because I am my mother’s daughter and I like to do bigger things and I have some hope, even if small, that I am on the path to becoming…acceptable to whatever image I have demanded of myself.
As I learn more about what it takes to be living this city, the physical strength, the ability to cope with harsh criticism both from peers and writers and from everyday people on the busy streets, I learn more about what it is to be. To be is to live and to write and to continue living even if the writing goes stale. That, is the challenge. Though I may not always write because I am too busy figuring out what I am and why I am here and where I am going, I don’t stop living. If it takes me a few more phases of immigration for me to satisfy my existence, so be it.

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