I remember the day like it was yesterday. The day I first landed at J.F. Kennedy International airport. How could one forget about a dream they cherished for so long? It was finally coming true. It was also the beginning of a long journey for someone who only knew three other African countries besides her motherland.
My mother threw a party the day before I left. I was excited to finally leave and attend school in the “most powerful country in the world”. I didn’t know anything about this “land of the free” except what I had learned through movies; but what I learned is far different from the America I’m living in.
“Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to America” the pilot said. I lifted up the window slide full of excitement about the view but, all I saw were airplanes. I closed it, took my backpack and followed the line. We were all getting off. As I walked down the stairs heading to the baggage claim, I looked around. There were just people running, no one was paying attention to me simply because “nobody has time to mind others’ business in New York”. That was the first time I felt alone.
I grew up in a house with almost ten people so I rarely felt alone back home. God knows I wish they could have told me that from the time you land in this country, you are alone. Everything is on schedule. You can’t wake up and decide to go visit someone; they need to know one or two days before, sometimes even weeks before. It took me a while to embrace this loneliness. You start loving it when you get a job. But no one told me that jobs make one addicted to the next paycheck. You try to work hard but it still feels like you’ve worked for nothing after you pay your taxes.
“Are they really homeless?” I once asked my aunt. I was surprised to see more than five people begging for money. My aunt was driving; she looked at me with a smile and answered: “This is not Paradise my daughter, you haven’t seen anything yet!”
I never really thought I would find any homeless soul here. I thought everyone had a great life (after all that’s what aba vacanciers bacu batwereka); but I see them every day, from all races and corners. Once upon a time, they probably had a job too. Trust me, it all starts with a job. They were once able to pay their loans. Who knows what made them drown in debts and find themselves on the streets? Loss of a job? A bad decision? Did they fall so short of the grace of society that they couldn’t get a second chance?
My life went on and, here I am almost four years later writing about the American dream. I wish we could all immigrate here without illusions, without the thought that money will appear on our doors steps in a blink of an eye. Oh how I wish every immigrant could stop selling false hopes to anyone once back in their different home countries. The American dream is nothing but utopia. What we see in TV shows is unreal.
Yes, you will drive a car you wouldn’t be driving in your motherland but you will be a slave to the lender. Yes, you may live in a house you wouldn’t afford back home, but what was once rent becomes mortgage, so, you are basically moving from one lender to another…
America will surely offer you luxurious things that you will spend most of your life paying for. That’s when you will find yourself stuck between two jobs or more, getting money you won’t have control of. You will suffer and try hard to survive between two cheques, but still, money will come and go because the real American dream is only good at making us slaves of our debts.
“Wondungikira nk’aga 100$?”
Your heart is saddened each time you get a text like this. You remember that making that “little 100$”, you spend 8 hours processing lobsters… Oh, did I just say that? I think I just did.
Only a few immigrants actually get more than minimum wage. You may come with a degree and still find yourself being a housekeeper, a caregiver, a cashier, simply because your degree does not matter; only theirs do!
With the little you’ve made, you want to act like everyone else and live a luxurious life. You want to show everyone that you’re finally living THE American dream, so you spend years paying endless bills. You then get stuck, you cannot even go back home to visit because you can’t afford it. And you can’t afford it simply because the american dream is a utopia that motivates you to keep hustling even though at the end of the day you work for money you cannot even control.
By Makurata, who lives and works in Portland, Maine, USA.
(Image source: reference.com)