This I Believe

Meenakshi - Austin, Texas
Entered on April 19, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: immigrant

My Second Life

I believe in immigration. Not as a matter of policy or political debate OR as a passage into the American way of life, but as a powerful personal experience.

Moving from India to the United States was the biggest leap of faith I made. Leaving behind everything I knew, it was even a bigger commitment than my marriage – I chose it site unseen. It was my coming of age accompanied by a loss of naiveté and innocence. My trusting self soon realized that prejudices and stereotypes do exist, but you have to keep marching on because you have a whole life to rebuild.

For the first time I listened, actually listened to the small voices of the minority, to the issues of the marginalized. For the first time, I could empathize with them because now I – a woman, a hindu, an Indian – was a minority. Having lived my entire life as part of an indistinguishable majority, I found my new minority status liberating. I found a voice that wanted to be heard and an identity that was proud to be different.

I realized that as my accent became less pronounced and my knowledge of American sports passably conversational, complete assimilation never became a goal for me. In a profound moment I understood that all assimilation is only skin deep. Immigrants by their very experiences are ‘perfectly rootless’ and incapable of assimilating, incapable of being one with either their adopted or home country. Being an immigrant is living ones life in the twilight zone with an enduring insider-outsider perspective on life. Despite feeling the weight of my own conflicting emotions, I don’t want to trade my experience for anything.

Immigration is an experience, an experience in self-discovery and tolerance, an experience in growing up and defining one’s true identity – This I believe.