I’ve been thinking about writing this piece for a while, and I figured why not now? I am just laying around waiting for my face mask to dry. Rather write than try to start my budding career as a Insta story comedian, ya feel?
The idea of being an immigrant is something that I consider to be a part of my identity and something that has contributed to me becoming the person you know today. Being an immigrant has given me my grit, it has given me an edgy, and the passion to prove to myself that I can accomplish the “American Dream.” I am literally waiting for the day that I have “made it” and can caption a photo, any photo, “not bad huh, for some immigrants,” like literally WAITING, and partially because of that, I take being an immigrant very seriously. Up until recently I considered my definition of being an immigrant simple, I was an immigrant in the US, document wise, but unless you really knew, you wouldn’t have really known. However, by spending some time abroad, in Europe, my idea of being an immigrant has slightly changed.
The reason for this is in America, where I have lived for 20 years, I speak the language perfectly, and am immersed in the culture, I know the slang, I get the jokes, but by rule of the government I am still an immigrant. I have my green card, and because of that I can’t vote, hell my dad even came to the US on a refugee visa, and while most people would never guess my immigrant status off of first impressions, when they do find out, there is a little shift in their attitude. I can’t describe it, but it is something and it comes with comments like, “oh so it must have been easier for you to get into college than…” “yea but do you even pay taxes?” and “every school needs an Eskimo.” I realize that to some friends I am that token immigrant friend, you know the friend’s that voted for Trump, knowing his stance on immigration, but then they use me as a cop out, “like I’m not racist, I support immigration. One of my friend’s even has her green card.” To clarify I pay taxes and having immigrant status didn’t give me a free pass into college, I still have loans and by no means did I get into my dream school. Don’t get me wrong I love FSU now, but it took a while to get there.
On the other hand, I am Estonian, born and raised, and that is the country that holds my citizenship. However, I could not feel like more of an immigrant. I speak with an accent, a very heavy one, and often mix in some English words because I forget the Estonian counterparts, I don’t know the culture, I don’t know the slang very well, and I can’t differentiate between the 8 different political parties there, which in my defense for a country that has 1.5 million people 8 political parties seems excessive. In Estonia I get comments such as, “you have a strange accent, you’re not from here right” “you’re living in Estonia you really should type in Estonian” and just the overall doubt in my ability. This overall doubt in my ability comes from the fact that I speak with an accent, so family and strangers question my intelligence and credibility just because I forget a word or two or it takes me longer to explain my idea, so they feel the need to tell me that maybe it’s too difficult for me to live in Estonia and I should just go back to the US.
In a time where the world is beginning to focus more on nationalism and anti-immigration, my status of essentially being a permanent immigrant gets to be frustrating. I find myself wanting to constantly scream, “I BELONG HERE!” because I belong in both countries and am contributing to making them both great again (I couldn’t resist the plug).
While I have faced challenges with both backgrounds, they have both added a lot to me too, and given me experiences that I otherwise couldn't have been a part of. For every one negative comment I have ever received I have been embraced and welcomed by families and friends that have wanted to learn about the other culture or about how life is on the other side of the world. And as they've learned from me, I have learned more from them and from the culture I am a part of and call home.