The Migrant's Conundrum: Between Looking Back and Moving Forward

Being an immigrant is hard. Legal and technical issues become something of their own. But when it comes to facing yourself in the mirror and finding out the identity of the person you’ve become, that’s a whole different subject not everybody’s ready to explore

For a lot of people, being an immigrant can feel like living a double life. Your conscious mind and body are torn apart, never really in one place at the same time. Continuous struggles of not being fully present, because your thoughts undoubtedly remain in the place you were physically forced to leave behind, thinking about those you had to leave in your home country, their specific needs, their eternal suffering, and their fierce battles. And on top of that, you naturally have to add your own struggles. Not an easy conflict to wage every day. Nonetheless, this isn’t the case for every immigrant in the world. For those who left their birth country at a very young age, these sorts of extraordinary things can get a little more convoluted. You’re the child of two countries, but which nation will universally prevail if you were asked to choose the one you consider your home?

Birthplace vs Home

Victoria, now 22, left Maracaibo more than a decade ago. She was just a child then. Although she still cherishes and values her Venezuelan roots and its unique culture, she no longer views Venezuela as her true home. It’s part of a life she no longer identifies with, something she left behind years ago. Victoria says if she were to go to Venezuela, it would be to visit some of the few relatives who still live there. Otherwise, she really has “no reasons to go back.” Now a citizen of the United States, Victoria feels this is really the place she can call home. In addition, she mentions this isn’t “only a place where she can thrive in her profession as an interior designer, but one where she can safely walk down the streets without the fear of being robbed or much worse.”

Victoria admits she rarely reads news about Venezuela, and the ones she does know about, it’s because she overhears her dad talking about them or learns about it on Instagram. On the other hand, she does like to be informed of what’s happening in the United States, particularly in the state of Florida. After all, Victoria says, “this is the place where I live,” so it’s natural for her to be interested in news that may directly or indirectly impact her life. And this is completely understandable. Nobody can judge someone else for being interested in what’s happening around them, instead of a place they left years ago. Since she moved to the U.S. when she was just ten years old, Victoria says it wasn’t that hard to adapt to American culture. Especially because Venezuela’s strong imprint in a city like Doral, Florida, makes it hard to feel far away from the Caribbean country. In spite of this, she mentions her family quickly adopted American mannerisms and began celebrating its holidays, such as the 4th of July or Thanksgiving. It’s their way of honoring a country that has given them countless opportunities to succeed and live a prosperous life.

Like Victoria, Cristina also sees Venezuela merely as the place she was born in, but not one where she’d go back to or build her life there. She doesn’t feel any sort of sentimental attachment or melancholy for this country. After arriving in the U.S. when she was ten, she’s been able to witness firsthand all the favorable opportunities it can offer, as opposed to Venezuela. And for that, she is extremely grateful. She says that whereas in Venezuela limitations exist in every aspect of society, the U.S. offers a multitude of chances to grow as an individual and a professional, within capitalistic and bureaucratic parameters of course. But it’s still a country where working hard and obeying the law pays off.

Even though every case regarding immigration naturally has its particular reasons and circumstances, Cristina highlights the moment she “realized how hard one truly has to work in order to succeed in every key aspect of life, whether it is academic or work-related, since not everything comes as easy as it may seem, especially in a country like the U.S.” Furthermore, Cristina has come to love the United States as her own, she sees herself as part of the driving force of this country and feels proud to be a citizen of this nation. Finally, she mentions, “this is the place where I see myself flourishing in my career as a criminologist, building a family of my own, and being able to live a happy, calm life.”

‘Ni de Aquí Ni de Allá’

Now, I have to say my story is completely different. I came to Miami, Florida to go to college thanks to a partial scholarship offered to me by Florida International University. Having lived most of my life in Venezuela, I have to admit that sometimes I feel like a stranger living in a place where I don’t belong. And believe me, I know how strange this may sound coming from someone who lives in Doral, which as many of you may know, is Venezuelan territory. It’s a weird feeling. But it’s my day-to-day struggle. And it’s a heavy burden to carry to be honest. 

Since I moved here five years ago, I have found it somewhat difficult to adapt and truly feel at home. My identity is still Venezuelan, in no way have I been influenced by American customs or traditions of the sort, or at least that’s what I think.

Since being away from Venezuela for so long, sometimes I wonder if I’ve come to form a sort of third identity without even realizing it. Meaning that, I may have some American traits and customs that I may not recognize myself, but someone else might notice them instantly. 

I’ve thought about this a lot lately and it has incited me to truly explore who I am as a person and how this may possibly affect the way I move forward with my life and build relationships along the way.

Most of my family is in Venezuela with no plans of moving out of the country in the near future, so there is always that force that keeps sort of pushing me back to the country for one reason or another. It’s kind of like saying “no me siento ni de aquí ni de allá,” that’s how I’d describe it. Something that definitely ties back to that third identity I was talking about earlier. I imagine I’m not the only one that feels this way. On the contrary, I think millions of immigrants are going through the same, especially those individuals who left their birth country at 18, which is neither young nor old. This is undoubtedly a crucial time in our lives, we finally leave our parents’ wings and go out to discover the world for what it really is. A time when we go through good, bad, ugly, and beautiful experiences that help shape our identity and mold our personalities as we move through life. And I believe that’s why establishing an individuality that reflects one country or another is so complicated. Instead, we may form an identity that has a little bit of both. 

We have our childhood memories, lessons, and idiosyncrasy that have been ingrained ever since the day we’re born. And then there are those episodes that we’ve had in our new countries, which have influenced the way we see certain things and how we react to them.

Being a journalist and an avid consumer of news, I have to say I do read about what’s going on there in terms of political, social, and economical issues. And a big reason for it is that I still feel so attached to Venezuela. It helps me stay informed on the latest developments that hit the country day by day. Although I do typically read about a wide array of news and events that happen throughout the world, my focus always goes back to Venezuela. I have to admit that a part of me still hopes to go back someday and settle down there. I wouldn’t know when exactly, but maybe in the long-term. To give back to my homeland, which taught me so many valuable lessons that I carry with me to this day, made me learn to not take even the smallest things for granted, and most importantly, made me fall in love with my people and the remarkable resilience we have been able to build along the years. But until that day comes, I keep working hard towards achieving my goals wherever life takes me, always keeping my country in my heart and mind, never forgetting where I come from and what it means to be one more figure within the massive Venezuelan exodus around the globe.