MY LIFE AS AN IMMIGRANT IN SO MANY WORDS
I stepped out of the revolving doors feeling like a million dollars but all they saw was an overdressed and wrongly dressed immigrant.
"Here comes another one", They must have said to each other as passed them. "Another job will be stolen soon", another would probably have said. "Or maybe live in luxury on our sweat, step into the benefit system and never come out", "I hate these migrants, ignorant, lazy, parasites and thieves", he continued.
The last statement is the part I heard said out loud and I wondered who they were talking about as I walked past them for I never imagined it could have been me. To start with I had never heard the work immigrant before except for reading it in a novel I once read and at that point it was only a word that helped shape the story that I was reading, fiction that's all.
On the other hand even if they had actually added my name in their name-calling thoughts and conversations, I still would have thought they were talking about someone else, another Farisai, for my view of myself was way above that.
My being here was supposed to have been a short term diversion, a therapeutic pathway to finding myself again after trauma had struck me back home in Zimbabwe. A situation that seemed to follow me everywhere I went around my country until l was at breaking point.
But months later in reflecting, after I heard another label thrown at me in the workplace, I knew without a shred of doubt that what I had heard those months before was actually assumptions being made about me and that made me mad. "look at her, working non stop, practically lives here. She thinks she will be promoted to Director soon. Making us look bad", one co-worker had complained to her colleague in the staff room while we were on our break.
I acknowledge I had been working hard. Long hours and almost everyday of the week for weeks on end because again that was another therapeutic pathway for my tormented heart, mind and soul. The effects of the violation I had suffered back home seemed unwilling to loosen its hold on me even this far away from home. So I worked myself into stupor everyday so that I would slumber at night in exhaustion and not have to toss and turn all night in agony of unwanted memories.
Yet again all they saw was another black immigrant bent on disturbing their peace by stealing from their resources. Isnt it ironic that even as I contributed to the economy I was still called a thief. Is it not ironic still that even as I did the hard and exhausting jobs that they avoided anyway I was still seen as a problem that they would throw out in an instant if they had a chance. "Where is the love?" I thought to myself. The "one world, one people" notion I had been taught growing up.
I blinked back the tears feeling like I was stuck between a rock and a hard surface. I could not be back home because it represented a set of problems and yet being here, I saw myself piling on another set of problems of a different kind. 'Lord where do the souls of the broken find rest" I remember thinking as I sat there eating my peanut butter sandwich and even today while in reflection.
Though I have managed to turn my life around, achieved a great deal both for myself and for my community, I still am carrying baggage of torment. As I have finally managed to drop the baggage that pushed me out of my own country, I have ironically found myself carrying another, full of the torment that comes with discrimination, racism, exclusion, minimization and disrespect. The name calling has continued and the accusations too. Thief, asylum seeker, parasite, ignorance, a hard to reach community, loud, aggressive, ugly and HERO.
Isnt it ironic that I say HERO without pleasure. This is because l do not actually feel like a hero as I find myself working on the frontline, risking my life because l know l have no choice but to work there even after being flagged as at higher risk of contracting the ferocious demonic virus COVID-19. My greatest hope is that the antibodies in my system will keep long enough. Either until the virus is eradicated or until I get the vaccine (another scary thought) but yes l did contract the virus right at the beginning of the pandemic.
Yet I smile as I reflect because life has taught me some lessons and l feel the need to share them for acknowledgement of lessons learned is citation of one's own growth, development and maturity. The ability to make lemon juice with the lemons that life throws at you. That I can safely claim to be proud of.
Hidden in the ironies of my life as an immigrant is the lesson that running away from problems is not always the answer because life is in actual fact a combination of problems and achievements. Thus l am here to stay and continue to make something of myself and of my community, overcoming whatever barriers arising as I go.
After all I believe home is where the heart is and my heart is right here in Bilston.