On Finding My Way Home


I don’t look like an immigrant—or, not your stereotypical idea of one, at any rate. I am fair skinned with blue eyes, and even at the age of 36, my hair has turned almost completely silver. The only time you’ll pick up on any linguistic anomalies between the way Minnesotans and I speak is when you hear me apologizing to the table I just bumped into, calling your beanie a toque, or explaining to you what I mean when I ask you to go to the beer store and grab a two-four. I don’t say “out” or “about” in quite the way you think I do, though I do say “tomorrow” like my life depends on properly pronouncing that second O. (Not following? Spend an hour with me over a double-double and a box of Timbits, and you’ll get it.)

I am proudly and unabashedly Canadian.

It was the very tail end of 2007 when my American-born husband and I moved from my home province of Ontario—where the winters are mild in comparison to the hellscape of their Minnesotan counterparts—to the Twin Cities. I jumped through every flaming hoop the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department required of me; I paid thousands of dollars in fees, filled out a mountain of paperwork, attended every medical assessment I was made to, and made sure to hand over every physical record of my being just short of giving them my actual fingertips and retinas. After years of waiting, form-filling, letter-writing, waiting and more waiting, I at long last took and passed my citizenship test, then crossed the threshold into naturalized territory as a proud conscientious objector of war. It was, to that point, my greatest accomplishment—you can’t know how badly I’d wanted to run.

Because here’s the thing—you can ask most any Canadian who lives here in the US and they’ll be able to convey this same sentiment: there’s a feeling unnamable that settles into our bones the moment we cross over that border from home to here—we don’t quite know how to explain it, but something just doesn’t feel right.

I live with that feeling in perpetuity. At nearly 11 years in, I’ve come to accept it as a natural byproduct of my choice to inhabit this space. At no point has it subsided beyond its dull roar, and I don’t expect it ever will. And that’s okay; because while the ridiculously cheap cost of gas, booze and milk doesn’t make up for the monstrous cost of healthcare or the rampant gun violence epidemic, this country offers so much, and soothes me by way of its incredible resources, its magnificent inhabitants and the communities I’ve formed with the people around me. I have a plethora of reasons to leave, yes—but a plethora more reasons to stay.

And so, stayed I have, and stay I continue to do.

This hasn’t been without consequence, however; it has impacted my mental health in no small way. I think it’s safe to say that to varying degrees, each of us finds our mental and emotional wellbeing affected by our physical space – but as an empath, a deep thinker and feeler, and someone who allows their heart to sit at the helm of this mighty ship, I’ve seen the waves of my discontent rock me, quite nearly to the point of capsizing, time and again.

I’ve traveled deep into the caverns of my mind, wondering a thousand times exactly where it is that I belong, and I’ve come up nearly empty-handed if not for the bottle of SSRIs that was prescribed to me when I realized I’d been swallowed up by my own depression.

Where is home, I’ve wondered, and what do I make of my surroundings regardless of where I find myself on any given day, week or year? To call Minnesota home has never once sat right with me—and yet each time I go back to my home country to visit, I feel less and less like I belong there, either. I’m trapped in some limbo state where equally nowhere is home, and everywhere is.

I still have no answers, no clear vision of the future and no great desire to call myself settled in any single city on this planet – but as time goes by and I become increasingly more aware of who I am, of what in this life matters and what unquestionably does not, I am reminded that home is here at my kitchen table, it is upstairs beneath my flannel sheets and wool blankets, and it is in each of the four respective cities my siblings and parents occupy, cozied up to them, wearing my favorite toque, breaking into a two-four and fawning over Canada’s waterproof dollar-bills.

I know this earth is filled with nomads and settlers aplenty; those who crave adventure, and those who thrive on routine and recoil over the concept of change. Some of us never cross paths, while some of us commingle, floating in and out of each other’s lives. Wherever home is to you, I’m with you as you marvel at your surroundings and as you pine for what once was. This life is a lot, yes; but it is unrivaled in its beauty and blessing.

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Sandy Jorgenson is a writer, editor, deep thinker, feeler, lover, mother and snack-eater based in the Twin Cities, MN. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Glamour Magazine, Refinery29 and more. You can follow her on Instagram, or you can follow her in real life. (But maybe don’t.)

 

  • Great blog post. I felt like that after I married— out of the loop of the get togethers of my unmarried sisters, treading cautiously amongst new in laws and their different traditions, unsure of my mothering skills, and finding new friends in a new community. I was someone’s sister but kinda not, someone’s daughter but kinda not, someone’s mother but kinda not, and had some friends but kinda not. I learned to hold onto my own worth, gaining confidence with every year. But I also still long for the feeling of normalcy and inclusion. I think if I did have it, I, like you, would then feel off balance for a different reason.

  • Wait, you don’t “look like an immigrant”? Uhm, you do realize your “don’t look like an immigrant” ancestors and other blonde/blues immigrated in the millions from Nordic countries and Scandinavian countries looking just like you. You might want to think about it, immigration has no one look, no one color, no one meme. Really silly.

    • Hello! That’s my point, precisely—and perhaps I could’ve done a better job expounding on it—but suffice it to say, between my Australian grandfather who immigrated to Ireland, my English father who immigrated to Canada and my Canadian self who’s immigrated to the United States, I’m well versed in what vast differences there are in how an immigrant looks. I was only pointing out that I don’t look like what the average citizen considers in their mind an immigrant to look like. I don’t think what I said was silly, though I’m sorry you do. Peace.