When I came to the United States, I was seventeen and unwilling to move miles away from my hometown. I admit that I was a homebody and the idea of change gave me nightmares. I thought, “I am here all alone. There is nobody I know there. How will I do this by myself? Why do I have to do this?” These questions ran in my mind on repeat, and at the time, I did not know how to manage my anxiety. Everyone around me seemed to be better prepared for the move, but that wasn’t true. Several of us were hiding behind mirages, hoping that our fears remained undiscovered.
The worst and funniest part was that I didn’t pack right for the move. I had three suitcases filled with things that I was emotionally attached to. I was literally tugging baggage from my past to a new chapter. My first suitcase was filled with photographs, albums, books, and collectible items. My second suitcase had clothes that I would never wear, but I truly believed that I would. Finally, my third suitcase had winter clothes that I tugged from Canada, which were very useful during the Boston winters. The saddest part is that all three suitcases were overweight, just as how my anxiety had become heavy within me.
After checking in at the international students’ orientation, with the help of my mother, we dragged the same suitcases up the dreadful hills and staircases of my university. By the time we reached my single room, I had no energy left to unpack, because my anxiety had completely drained me out. My mother asked me to attend the orientation activity even when I had no motivation to go. I feared that by the time I was back, I would have to bid goodbye to her.
With a brave face, I went ahead to meet my new classmates and made a few friends in the process. By the time I returned to my room, everything was put back in place and a sense of sadness filled me. After a brief conversation with my mother, we hugged and said goodbye, since she had to take her flight back the next day.
I remember sitting on my bed and hoping that I could get out of my room to see my parents watching television downstairs. I almost wished that I could hear the sound of the television or their voices echo in the hallway.
This is it. This is what it feels like to be on your own. Shikha, you will have to be stronger and braver than you think you are.
After several years, some of my close friends and I talked about how traumatic moving to a new country can be. I used to think I was the only one that feared the move, but I wasn’t. All of us tried to keep our heads above the water, hoping to not drown. Some adapted quicker than the others, while some found the change to be extremely frightening. Some drowned, while others survived the powerful waves of change.
With time, I had to let go of the things that I brought with me in my three suitcases. They were no longer useful, and had become unnecessary baggage that I didn’t feel attached to. I had become much stronger and braver than I thought I was.