When I immigrated to Canada, I had only been married for 10 months: in fact, my wife Daniela was not included on the original application submitted more than 3 years earlier, so when I got married, I had to communicate the change in my marital status so the application could get updated, before getting the final approval.
I get goosebumps when I think of how much the experience of changing countries has changed both of us, but I am really intrigued when I think about how different our relationship might have been without our having immigrated.
I know that I would have been a totally different husband, and that, along with Daniela, I would have fallen into the pre-established social position determined by the southern Italian small town cultural blueprint: the wife cleans the house and takes care of the family, even if she has a full-time job; and the husband, who works to support the family, must have a social life after work with friends, drinking beer or coffee or playing cards, no matter the circumstances …
We visit our families in Italy at least every two years, sometimes even every year, and I have noticed how even the couples that I used to consider very open-minded, modern and with a fair sense of equality, seem to me now to be quite archaic, to say the least. My perception has changed drastically; the meter I am using to measure these things is different now.
From my new point of view, the Immigrant’s point of view, everyone seems so invested in the roles they play, determined by their culture. This is especially true when observing couples: everyone in relationships ends up desiring to be considered “normal” and “acceptable”, only playing the part that´s expected of them instead of focusing on teamwork. I don’t mean that here in North America this does not happen: of course it does, it happens in every country, but it isn’t always visible to those who live in the middle of it! The Immigrant that goes back to his native country on vacation has the good fortune of being able to see it, after developing other references through his experiences far away.
What I mean is that an open-minded Immigrant couple has the potential to learn how to detach themselves from roles like “I am the husband and I can’t worry about washing the floor” or “ I am the wife and I shouldn’t worry about installing floor tiles”.
I know that many of you who have experienced this will relate to what I am about to share, while some, on the contrary, will realize that they would never allow it, even if it cost them time, money or happiness.
At the beginning of our immigration experience, my wife Daniela literally ended up installing floor tiles in the kitchen of our first home, and I literally washed the floors many times in our house so that she could work and go to English school! This would have seemed very strange in my native culture in a little town in southern Italy, especially in 2002!
What I am trying to say is that, as a family, when engaged in this sometimes ugly but transformative, scary but inspiring adventure called “immigration”, there is really no option but to detach ourselves from the roles defined by our native culture if we want our immigration to be successful. We need each other´s adaptability, flexibility, and courage to remove the specific roles given by our previous society, so we can complement each other, be there as the darkness when our spouse needs to be the light and as a light when our spouse is stuck in darkness. Or, practically speaking, be the husband that fixes the meals and puts the kids to bed when your wife wants to go to night school to become a chef after a full day of work!
The effect on the entire family is potentially (I repeat, potentially) powerful and mind-expanding when the immigrating experience includes kids!
The Immigrants’ kids are very lucky if they have seen their parents freeing themselves from their conditioned roles and becoming an inspiration and support for each other while adapting to their new life in the new country! No matter what age they are, the lesson learned from their parents will empower them exponentially forever: they will acquire the precious ability to be open to anything and attached to nothing; they will understand that their culture and their beliefs are just tools available to them and not who they are; they will learn how to use them and not be used by them.
The Immigrant’s kids will be able to teach this to their own kids, creating an infinite ripple effect that will contribute to making this place a better world… Are you starting to grasp how powerful the act of immigrating is and why it needs to happen for so many of us?
Do you really think, my dear reader, that your deciding to become an Immigrant is just a whim, just a simple reaction to unhappy circumstances?
I don’t know you, but I feel that this immigration thing is part of a bigger plan: it seems to me that I was meant to experience it and so was everyone else who goes through it!
It feels like an incredible opportunity to leave a legacy, to be part of a big project focused on creating better human beings for the future; “more human”, and mainly “more beings”.
Unfortunately, not every Immigrant’s kid is so lucky, and for some, having an Immigrant parent could be a potentially disastrous experience! Some see their parents resisting any changes: they see their parents aggressively defending the roles given them by their native culture, not supporting each other to allow each other to grow, not working as a team to overcome challenges, and so dooming themselves to a losing battle. They grow up only seeing examples of rigidity and defensiveness and an intense feeling of fear: fear of losing who they are, fear of losing what their culture has told them they are. The fear is as intense as it would be if they were about to be murdered – the conditioned part of them feels that threatened.
The kids of this kind of immigrant will feel disconnected from others, and the attachment to their parents’ culture will be as rigid as that of their parents.
In the most formative periods of their lives, they will lose the opportunity to learn to be open to differences, to tolerate, to be kind, to think big, to imagine and to dream despite any circumstance: isolation will be their first reaction to others, followed by pain and loneliness. I recognize this type of immigrant’s kids everywhere, and unfortunately, they are the majority: they are not happy human beings! I can see the struggle of their immigrant parents in their faces, in their bodies and behavior. I see them in my extended family, and during the more than three hundred home consultations for my kitchen cabinet business.
Their parents not only missed the opportunity to reinvent themselves and experience a fabulous quantum leap in their lives but compromised the quality of their kids´ lives! Do you feel the load of responsibility? I do…
As Immigrants, we don’t have to be ambitious, hungry for making a lot of money or pursuing fame. Not everyone goes after these things: however, the only thing that we have the duty to learn is to be open! Open to life, free to see and recognize anything that appears different as being something interesting that needs to be discovered. How? Detaching our identity from our culture and using it as a weapon to conquer opportunity, not as a weapon of self-destruction! If we don’t want to do this for ourselves, let’s do it for our kids and for the future generations. I feel that this is the spiritual motivation behind being an Immigrant…
The most popular and successful Immigrant and son of Immigrants of the last few years, a bright entrepreneur, author, speaker, and internet personality, Gary Vaynerchuk is very clear when explaining the advantages that Immigrants and their kids have over natives of the new country. All that he explains in his video is true, but only if the Immigrant has understood, applied and taught his/her kids the importance of staying open: otherwise, it is only true for the few who perceive it…
Watch his powerful video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wExMgg9aNOU.