I guess there is nothing wrong with following the advice of others when we don’t know what to do. Since we were little kids, we have all been told, directly or indirectly, that this is normal, some of us more than others.
I remember my Mother’s advice to me at the start of every school year from kindergarten on; “Don’t be nervous, just do what the other kids do… you will be ok!” It was what my older cousin told me with genuine care and confidence before my 12-month mandatory Italian army experience began, convinced that he was sharing basic wisdom: “Just do what the other guys do and you will not get in trouble; the more you blend in, the easier it will be for you…”
It’s a very common need, we must know what to do! We can’t improvise, it makes us feel vulnerable, exposed. If a procedure is put into a step-by-step sequence for us, it is even better. Why would immigrating, the most life-changing act of all, be any different? Hence, once we have decided to immigrate, we anxiously look for information, instructions and sometimes even for someone to actually tell us what to do, someone that may have gone through it already. When we finally find him/her, we feel more comfortable and follow the directions given… until… we read on a Facebook post that those directions are not good! Well, now what do we do? Why is it so hard? Our self-talk becomes compulsive, we begin to doubt both sources, and even though our immigrating experience has not even started, we are already overwhelmed, and with this state of mind we keep looking for more answers!
When I decided to leave Italy, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to immigrate with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur; I did not know how, in what industry, with what money, where, with whom, etc.…
When I arrived in Canada, however, the need to know “what to do next” quickly took over and made me forget the only thing that had been clear to me before; my goal. With both of us looking for directions, my wife Daniela and I became good friends with another couple of the same age, immigrants that had arrived six months prior to us from Venezuela. Sharing similar life situations, we quickly connected and we started to rely on their input when we needed to make decisions.
Now I smile, thinking of how much significance I was giving to their suggestions, and how they were so engaged in the role of mentors that the relationship got damaged when we snapped out of this addictive behavior. It seems so insane now; involuntarily, we were harming them too by making them believe that they had what it took to lead other newcomers!
Why was I expecting someone else, with different life experiences, from a different culture, with different dreams and different reasons driving their immigration, to know what was good for Daniela and me? Probably for the same reason as many others, the need to know what to do!
We may unconsciously do this so we can blame somebody else if things go “wrong”; subconsciously, we don’t want to be responsible for our decisions.
Conscious immigration is the only way; if we know what we want from this experience, what is the real, deep-seated reason behind our decision to immigrate to a new country, the next step is to trust what we are doing. Sure, ask questions, brainstorm with others that have gone through this or that experience already, use as many sources as you want, but only with the idea of educating yourself and not to copy their decisions.
If your goal, is always present in your heart and mind, then every action you perform, taking this job, trusting that person, renting this house, asking for that loan and signing up for this course, will always be a step closer toward that goal, no matter if they seem to be failures or victories.
My dear Immigrant friend, if this way of thinking does not seem right to you, if you feel uncomfortable agreeing with it, please don’t forget that you are in a new environment now and all the people that convinced you to act differently, loved ones or not, don’t have the same power over you anymore. You are on your own now, with all the freedom and responsibility that comes with that. I have mentioned it before, and I will keep repeating it over and over again: “When immigrating, you don’t write a new page in your life, not even a new chapter; you write a new book… if you allow yourself to.”