The day started like any other winter day. Struggling to get out of bed into the uninviting winter frost. While my dad was cleaning the layers of snow that piled on top of the car, I was trying to find the meaning behind this day. This is the day many dream about when they arrive to this country, full of hopes for a new beginning, the endless possibilities to provide a better future for their families. And I felt I was taking it for granted. Why wasn’t I emotional?
We arrived. My parents, sisters, and I. Only a few weeks before my parents and I proved we deserve this honour. We studied for weeks, every province, every historical detail, all the names and symbols that make this country what it is. Do the people who were born here know all that I know now about their country? I truly doubt it. Looking around me, I immediately felt underdressed. The men wearing suits, the ladies in an elegant attire, and the children with perfectly combed hair. Some came in the traditional clothes from their country of origin, which seemed ironic but also completely made sense to me. I was looking down at my jeans and boots. I was heading to write a mid-term right after this ceremony and my head was busy reviewing thermodynamics formulas.
Everyone was seated. A gentleman in a suit and tie congratulated us all for making it to this day. After a short speech, we were all asked to rise and swear our loyalty to the new country. Everyone was doing it. I kept on telling myself this is just a formality, but I could not stop feeling guilty. Does this mean I am putting the past behind me when accepting this country as my new home? Then we sang the national anthem, both in English and in French. People started tearing up.
As soon as the ceremony was over, people started taking pictures. Holding the flag, posing with family members and friends that came to congratulate them, shaking hands with the master of ceremonies. It seemed like everyone around me made this transition that I was still struggling to make.
Years later, a work colleague of mine, shared with me his citizenship ceremony experience. He came from a small Island near Portugal. He came here when he was 11, but was 28 when he got his citizenship. I asked him why it took so long, convinced it was a legal issue. To my surprise, he told me it was his choice. He struggled with accepting a new citizenship. He did not want to belong to a new country, feeling it will take away from him belonging to his country of origin. ”I didn’t come here looking for a new home” he told me “I lived on a beautiful island, with the ocean just at my door step. I didn’t come here to stay, I came here for an experience, but I will be back home someday”.
And then it hit me. Coming here, embracing this wonderful country, does not mean I’m leaving my country behind. It can still be part of my identity. It can still be my base. No matter what brought people here, when they refer to their country of origin, they always call it “back home”. They come here, integrate in society and in their workplace. Sometimes learn a new language, customs, and traditions. But when they get into their car after a long day of work they still listen to their own music. When they arrive home, they still enjoy their traditional food. When spending time with their children, they still try to install appreciation within them to the place they came from. And no matter how integrated they are, a warm spot is always reserved in their hearts to the place they once called, and always will call HOME.