Note to Self (36)

My head was always full of dreams, since I can remember. I grew wanting out of the country where I was born because I felt different, and just never really belonged there in the first place. The language, the culture, all the traditions and the customs were never mine. I just did not like it there.

So I dreamt. I dreamt as hard as I could, searching for a place where I could be happier. I wanted a new freedom. When I turned seven or eight, I can’t exactly remember, my much older half-brother had left to the United States and had been in New York for a while then. He had found a girl, and wanted to permanently stay. Like every foreigner before and after him, he had fallen in love with the American dream.

I don’t really know how it all happened, maybe it was supposed to be that way, but I know I wanted to go to New York too when I grew up. I stuck the idea deep inside my head and it never really left me. Despite all the doubts, the worries and the trouble figuring out who I was, I always knew I would go to New York one day. Mostly, I wanted to be an American. I loved the language, the accent, the people and the culture, everything about that country attracted me so much, I would have sold my soul to the devil to be able to live there.

I think that God heard my prayers at some point, and if not God, somebody above must have, because I finally came here. My first time to New York City, I was 17. It was 11 years ago. I was a tourist with a video camera, one of the first generation of digital technology available on the market. I had bought it because I wanted to become a movie director at the time, so I had to practice. My German grandma had given me enough money to get it, and I splurged. I got the best one I could. I filmed everything, made a movie out of it, the soundtrack being a series of songs by the Backstreet Boys (I was a die hard fan). The movie was awesome. It was New York City at its best, and man, how good it was.

After that my dream never died. I pushed myself to improve my English, took notes in all my classes (taught in French or German) in English, and I devoured books written in English, watched all American and English movies in their original version (with English subtitles at first, then without), and I went online, chatted with people, always speaking in English. I lived and breathed English. American English. I even found a job as a legal assistant in a small international law firm where I would speak and write only in English all day long.

During the summer of 2005, fate put on my road my husband. And then you know, I just decided to take the leap. I applied to law school at Hofstra University, got accepted to pursue an LLM, and I left. I packed all my stuff in two suitcases, and took the plane on July 26, 2006. A one way ticket.

I remember landing and then feeling lost, homesick, wondering whether I had made the right choice. I could not understand when people spoke to me, my English was good but I realized it then how bad it was. There’s nothing like being in the country when you want to perfect your foreign languages. I suffered from a constant headache for the first six months I lived here, as if my brain was subject to a weird transformation, creating new connections the more I listened and spoke, thought and processed information, completely cleansing all the French out of my system.

Like every change, this one hurt like hell, but God, how thankful I am today. I can write and tell stories in English. I live here, and feel like an American. I’m not French anymore. I belong here. The best thing that could happen, after living for months with an uncomfortable nervous feeling in expectation of getting the good news, was to receive what I had been expecting for so long. My reward, my prize, my pass to freedom: my green card.

I am so thankful, I want to cry. Thank you God, and thank you America, for loving me so much. You made me a very happy woman today.

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