– Happy birthday to you! Welcome to America!
We arrived in New York on the day of my 31st birthday. The border control officer checked my passport so carefully that I was wondering if something was wrong with it.
– Is it your birthday today, ma’am?
– Yes, sir.
Unexpectedly, he stood up and started singing the most popular birthday song, “Happy birthday”. He was singing so beautifully and loudly that all the people from all the lines stopped talking. I was completely shocked – in a good way – from getting such attention. When he finished singing, he gave me my passport back and said: “Welcome to America.” Then he started applauding. The people around applauded, too. I felt like I was a movie star.
Does it matter how your new country welcomes you? For me, it does. Feeling the love from the first moment in America, I felt the same way about this country.
It’s New Year and we are talking about new beginnings and about New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never done any pledges. Start eating healthfully? Quit smoking? Become thinner? Call your elder relatives every day? Why should you wait until the New Year? I never understood why you have to wait until “next week, next month” or even “next year” to start doing something good for you or for other people. If you decide to do something, if you feel it’s the right thing to do to help yourself, your family, your careers, or your relations, just do it. Isn’t that easy?
We decided to change our lives when we came here. Since that, every day is still a New Beginning. I came here thinking that my English was perfect – I studied it in the university in Moscow and in an International School in London. It turned out; however, that no one speaks British English here. That was a disaster! At first, I couldn’t understand other people’s accents, and they couldn’t understand mine. I came home every day, crying: what the heck do all these people want from me?! I started learning English from “zero.” I bought all these magazines about Hollywood stars – did you know that they are awesome textbooks for English learners? They have all these large pictures and a little text under, so you can easily understand what you are reading about. I felt like a kindergartener who is learning to read, but it helped me to learn American slang. Seriously, who knew that “hubby” means “husband”, not “hobby?” My American English may still not be perfect, but I already forgot how to use proper grammar – because most Americans never bother with it.
Besides language, there is another thing which bothers me most. Moving to another country after your 30th means you have to find new friends. One of my acquaintances moved from Manhattan to our neighborhood a few years ago. Recently, she told me this: “You can’t imagine how awful I feel living here so far from my family and friends.” Seriously? Being half hour drives away from your friends – and you have the nerve to complain about it, and, even worse, complain to me? I remember spending one of our first Thanksgiving Days – one of my favorite American holidays – with my two babies. My “hubby” was on a business trip and one of my kids was sick, so I wasn’t able go to the store and buy food for the feast. No family, no close friends, no turkey. Tell me about “feeling lonely”. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt.
Living in a new country means you also have to adjust to new holidays and new traditions. My favorite, as I mentioned above, is Thanksgiving. Living a busy life, we all need a reminder to stop and say “thanks” for everything we have.
For a few years, coming back from vacations, I was confused and felt more like a tourist. Now, talking about “coming back home” I mean my home in New York. I can picture it in my imagination. It took a few years, but I really mean it now.
Those being said, if you want to try something new in your life, don’t wait until the New Year. Quit smoking now, because it’s bad for your health, not because it’s January 1st on the calendar. Call your elderly relatives now, because they will be really glad to hear from you any day, any time, not just because it’s the holiday season. Move to the place you can call “home”. Start living now. And don’t forget about the “Happy Birthday” song, because every day is special.