I am in the mood for coining a phrase, so here it is: “Responsibility is a quality that, when it is present in one´s life, becomes the strongest foundation on which all good can be built!” Living without a sense of responsibility is like walking through life the same way we walk through our living room in the middle of the night, stepping on hundreds of Lego pieces in the dark, trying to reach the never-more-distant bathroom: every step bringing us pain, arms open, struggling to keep some balance, the cursing, the blaming, the anger all bottled up, trying to keep it quiet so nobody wakes up!
Many of us immigrants leave our families, our friends, our land, and unfortunately we often leave our sense of responsibility behind too, assuming that it was ever there in the first place. We try to build a new, supposedly better life, without this fundamental ingredient; so after a few months or a few years of trying to keep our balance between a few bad jobs, a couple of terrible landlords and a car accident, when we can’t keep the pain and the disappointment quiet anymore, we find ourselves expressing it with complaints like: “This country it is not what I expected…”, or “I have tried, but people here seem to be even worse than back home…” Those who are more diplomatic (the ones who don’t want to yell at the kids for leaving the Legos on the floor) might say: “I love this country, it is my fault that I didn’t do my research, the rent is so expensive here, I should have tried to make it someplace where life is cheaper…”, or “It’s a land of opportunity, but the way I operate is not appreciated by these people…” and many, many similar affirmations.
I am often hesitant to say anything when I hear fresh newcomers or immigrants that are waiting for their Green Card or their work permit or visitor´s visa talking too positively and too enthusiastically about Canada, or any country they are immigrating to. Their comments seem so unrealistic at the time, they describe it as this perfect paradise where they will be able to find everything they don’t have in their native country; they believe that everybody will be nice, happy and honest, and that they will find an abundance of work and possibilities just waiting for them.
I admire their positive attitude, but usually my fear, that they are loading their new country with a huge weight of unrealistic responsibilities, ends up being confirmed.
We have been brought up to only look for the apparently favorable circumstances out there, instead of recognizing that we have the responsibility and at the same time the power to change our perception of what happens around us at all times. Because of this habit, when we land in a new country with all our hopes as immigrants, we expect that all the circumstances we need will be delivered by that country, and so, at the first negative experiences, we quickly change our minds and start that initial inner complaining about our new country, followed later by the loud externalized complaining! Yes, some of us are this unreasonable, but let’s not beat ourselves up over it! We do this unconsciously. It is a habit, part of our conditioning!
I just love what George Bernard Shaw once said: “People are always blaming the circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, they make them.” This is exactly what the Inspired Immigrant does when he leaves his native country: he is looking for new circumstances, and if he does not find them, he makes them! The Inspired Immigrant doesn’t change countries just to become a beggar!
Let’s clarify this. If you are moving to North America or Australia from a country in southern Europe, southern Asia, South Africa or South America, the fact that you will have more job opportunities is real and tangible. What is not tangible and certain is that you will be able to see those opportunities and leverage them to your advantage if you don’t take the responsibility of looking for the opportunity to grow in every circumstance, no matter if the situation is apparently positive or negative. Being awake to this truth is being an Inspired Immigrant, destined to become somebody.
If you rely on circumstances and don’t believe in taking the responsibility for having the right attitude no matter what happens, you will deal just like I did with what happened after 6 months in Canada. I found a job in a window company, but I got laid off after 5 months when the orders slowed down for the off season. I was extremely devastated because I thought that what was happening was not right for a country like Canada. So, whining, I called my mother, giving her an unwanted lecture on predicting the economy, telling her that the Canadian economy was on the verge of a recession, that I had picked the wrong time to immigrate, and on and on with an absurd level of drama. What a wise woman my Mom is: she did not say a single word, she just listened, every now and then acknowledging my monologue, and suddenly, just before I hung up, her silence made me understand how insane the content of that phone call was.
I am glad I called because her silence was very loud. I remember realizing that I needed to be grateful, and that the hiccup of collecting unemployment after only a few months in Canada made me feel ashamed, but it taught me that this country was not a paradise that was going to take care of me, filling all my needs. I decided that from that moment on I had the responsibility of looking for the good in any circumstance if I wanted to see and leverage the great country that Canada was.
Since that incident, I have caught myself more than once falling into the old habit of blaming my new country because of “negative” circumstances, but because I was aware of doing it, I slowly and gradually eliminated this habit from my lifestyle.
If I have managed to do this, anybody can do it: you are aware now… you just need to have the courage to admit it and the strength to act on it.
If you think you can’t do it, I promise the Immigrant in you, you certainly can!
I will leave you with a powerful story from a couple of summers ago when, with my wife Daniela and the boys, I decided to go for our usual vacation in Italy, visiting our respective families in our little town. While enjoying an espresso at a friend’s coffee shop, an old acquaintance of mine unexpectedly greeted me and strangely began bombarding me with dozens of questions about life in Canada, the economy, the culture, the possibilities, the people, etc. It really seemed like a test. I answered with enthusiasm, but trying to be very objective and repeating more than once that this was only my point of view. Suddenly, when he seemed anxious to leave, I asked if he could explain the reason for that interview. He said, “Last summer, your third cousin Filippo claimed the exact opposite about every topic I questioned you about. My brother is thinking of migrating to Canada or the US, and I thought it would be helpful to ask you, just to have a clearer idea.” He waited a few seconds and then, with a smile on his face, he said, “Now I am more confused than ever…” Then he shook my hand and left.