America used to be so foreign. It was this unknown land where as soon as I crossed the border from Canada going into the States, I’d immediately get that feeling. It wasn’t a bad feeling, but it was a feeling of unease. Being out of my comfort zone and on someone else’s turf. My friend and I were discussing it earlier today as she drove me to the bus station in Vancouver. It’s the feeling of not knowing. As a Canadian stepping into America your phone doesn’t work, you don’t have health insurance, people are [supposedly] rude and even the air feels different. It’s a feeling where I was always excited when I would road trip to the States, but always so relieved once stepping back into Canada having had nothing gone wrong. Yes, it was always exciting, but it was always a bit uncomfortable, too.
It was about this time 3 years ago that I first made the trip to the US embassy to apply for my American citizenship. My plan was that in roughly a year's time, I would move to San Francisco. My mother is American, and I needed to prove this to the US government so I could get my American passport. You’d think her birth certificate and US passport would have been enough, but it wasn’t. I continued to send them anything I could possibly find that showed my mother’s life in America, from newspaper clippings of her as a child to piano trophies. The entire process was a headache that took about 8 months, but sure enough, my passport arrived within a month of when I was to move to San Francisco.
I woke up at about 3:30am that morning. I had gone to central Canada for a few weeks to visit with my parents before the big move. As they tearfully said goodbye to me, I used my American passport for the first time, and just like that, stepped across the border into unknown land. It was weird and it was exciting and I wasn’t entirely sure what to feel. I was now a citizen of this unknown land. Was I even allowed to feel weird about coming to America anymore?
Going back and forth between the countries has always been an emotional process for me. For 23 years Canada was the only home I’d ever known. And so with that, I put every ounce of energy into making San Francisco home. Into building a home, into understanding the culture (Canada and America may be sister countries, but they are quite different), into making friends, into building my career, into everything I possibly could to finally feel… at home. The place you know like the back of your hand. The most comfortable place you want to feel at. These last few years in America have become some of the best years of my life. They weren’t always easy, but they became the years where I finally was able to call this unknown land Home.
I don’t have a sense of relief when stepping back into Canada anymore, but I am always excited to be there. If Canada were a person I’d refer to it as the nostalgic first love everyone has (and hopefully has good memories of). Or maybe it’s like the childhood house you grew up in where you know where everything is and everything feels a little calmer. I love Canada, and I love being in Canada, but as I sit on a bus typing on my laptop as we cross the border from Canada into America, I feel excited, because, I love being in America, too. America is where I created my other home. It doesn’t feel weird or uneasy anymore. It, too, feels like home. For that, I am thankful.