Being a Foreigner or Being at Home

Since my arrival in the United States in April of 1986, it become my new home… it was not easy, it is twenty seven years of ups and downs, failures and successes, sadness and happiness…but overall it was fulfilling. It came together, I’ve arrived, I am home.

I don’t think leaving ones home country is easy for anybody. Regardless of any circumstances, such as political, social, or economical obstacles and hardship, anyone would be proud of their heritage and their background… as you can hear many good old stories about the old country, all the traditions, cultures, and memories from many parents, or grandparents whom immigrated to United States, or any other countries. Sweet and savory stories that make you laugh and want to cry at the same time… stories that make you proud of who you are and connecting you to your roots. Stories of how your family become who they are, how hard they worked to provide for each other, how heart breaking it was to leave the old country, their loving homes… homes full of memories, birthdays, weddings, sad days, happy days and feelings of belonging.

And now we are here, strange country, different in many ways, language, culture, food, music, family traditions and more… how could we adjust with all these changes? It was the hardest for generations who immigrated during the first two decades after 1979 because they were more old- school and immersed in old country tradition and family structure. It is much easier for our children who came to the new country and were raised here, they are the ones who were born here, they have adapted and have blended in with the new society and ways of living in a western country. However, the problem and hardship still exists among older generations, parents, and grandparents who still need to be respected as they were in the old country and live with the traditions and culture in which they are accustomed.

This particular issue is what is separating us from rest of society and making it harder for us to feel at home. Our resentments toward the old county, our resentments toward our new country, our regrets because of all our past decisions, our upsets for all fast decisions, for any reasons… make us feel more separated from our new place of living. This unfinished business of being away from home and always being a foreigner is what causing us to not be at home here, a home away from home.

Living among others as a foreigner is hard by itself, but on top of that, we are doubting ourselves and our decisions. We are always in survival mode and trying to protect ourselves from an imaginary treat generated from us feeling like a foreigner and stranger to this new society.

We the older generation feel we have to carry the burden of old country and constantly prove that we are not that, or that we had anything to do with everything that has gone wrong in relationship between our two governments. On the other hand, our children have mixed within society much faster than us, and feel more at ease with their friends and society as whole. They finished their education here; they have businesses and careers here, even married non-Iranians, and has really got their family comfortable with their new country culture.

I think what makes us feel at home, and at ease with our new place of living is to own our own prejudice and feeling of being different. Unfortunately, we carry some “looking good” and some “false pride”. Please don’t take me wrong; I am a proud Iranian-American. I know who I am and I am proud of it, but I will not rub it in other’s faces that I am better than they are, or I am superior because I am from the old country and a very ancient culture. It is our own feelings of separation that are causing us to be more separated among people we are living with. Why is our younger generation having a much easier time to adjust and find their place in society? Because they are carrying less baggage of their past with them. I am very happy when I see our younger generation showing interest in learning about their family history, culture, dance, food and overall tradition.

But at the same time they know they are American virtue of their choice as much as they are Iranian virtue of their blood and heritage; they come hand to hand, they are coming together and creating space of being free to be themselves and being at home with their unique situation.

Feeling or experience of being at home starts from a personal responsibility of making a place our home, period. It comes from accepting our situation as our choice and our own creation. Freedom to be begins with the accountability of; “I am here, it is mine and I will make it work”. This simple mental action is the first step to being at home and feeling that you belong to your new society. Second mental action is to stop the language of separation, such as “us” verses “them” or “we Iranian” and “them American” or any other language that could cause more separation among us as a nation.

We are American, that is fact… look at how many Iranian-Americans are serving in US military, and government, see how many of Iranian-American are contributing in big government, the medical society, scientific or agricultural agencies… we are home already, we are part of this great nation, we are this great nation. We have arrived in someone else’s home, they welcomed us and gave us the opportunity to start a new life and build our future, it is our Iranian value to say; “Thank You” and start taking one side of societies’ difficulties and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I think it is about time to we accept ourselves as proud and devoted Americans who came from a great country named Iran, which we are so proud of, and continue loving.

We shall stop being foreigners and start being at home.