Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reality Cheques

Imagine starting a new life after 36 years of being alive with nothing but your insufficient clothes.

I romanticised about it many times over the years. Whenever things got rough, my happy place was to visualise myself in a new country, with a new identity. I would always be by myself in those fantasies- no responsibilities, no expectations. It was always sunny. I was always happy and beautiful.

I partially achieved that dream by immigrating to Canada. A new place where no one knew me and I didn't know anyone. The only difference was, this was reality. I came here with all my responsibilities, lot of baggage (emotional) and twisted associations with stereotypes of success. In my dream, I never imagined that I would freak out that one slice of bad quality cheap pizza would cost me as much as a wholesome meal at a decent restaurant in Pakistan. My fantasy was never polluted by the thought of money or the lack of it. A newspaper says Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Why expenses never feature in dreams and always show up in the nightmares of reality is something that I could never fathom. So yes, in short I got a reality check.

One month rent of a tiny studio apartment is 3 times the rent of my luxurious 3 bedroom house in Islamabad. Reality.

It does not matter that you were a 'successful' professional in Pakistan just 2 months ago. It does not matter that you applied as a skilled person and got permission to immigrate on the basis of your profession. Once you arrive, you have lost your right to privilege. No one knows about the best university you attended, no one cares about your shining career. No one considers that you are older, wiser with years of experience. You just don't have the privilege of being somebody anymore, not until you earn it all over again. Reality.

The freedom that you had dreamed about when immigrating starts to lose its lustre when you don't have the money to pay for it. Reality.

The friends that were your family write to you when you are asleep and you respond to them as they snooze. The literal time difference of a few hours doubles into an eternity of delayed communication until they give up and move on or you do. Reality.

You start discovering new bad things about your partner. Is it because you are spending more time with each other being unemployed? It is unfortunate to think that you loved that person only because you were away from him/her for 8 hours everyday and now the sheer proximity and its extent is making you hate them. Reality.

You realise that your perception and projection of what you were was so much linked to what you did. What you gained was linked to what you owned. In this distorted realisation, you sometimes have this very short moment of clarity in which you feel utter freedom. Immigration gives you an opportunity to break away from all those associations and stereotypes. You are nobody and that's ok. No one will judge you because no one knows you. The only judgement you need to overcome is yours. 

As I sit here in my studio apartment's balcony writing this post, I can see a girl from her window constantly checking herself in the mirror, from every possible angle, butt naked. I see a young man fixing his hair every few minutes in another apartment. I have the view of a gym where people are working out with their eyes glued to the wall sized mirrors. Later I would go back in and see myself in my tiny bathroom mirror. I would notice the grey hair, the drooping skin, the lines around my eyes and my unfit waistline. In Pakistan, I worried about safety and abuse. Here I worry about money and my dying looks. That so far has been the gist of my leap from a third world country to a first one. Reality.

Time to snap out of this post partum depression. Tomorrow.