Or Lessons Learned since Moving to Canada
OMG! It’s been 9 years and I didn’t even realize it’s been that long. Time really flies when you are focused on adjusting to a new country, culture and rebuilding a totally new life.
Looking back, I cannot believe I have achieved so much. I landed in Toronto as a recently widowed mother of two teenage boys, trying to be brave and wanting to give my children a chance to build a decent life and an education.
I didn’t have any family here, just some friends who were my moral support and guides to help me navigate through the challenges that came up every single day. Some of these challenges were small, like where to find the right grocery store, how to use the TTC, and others were big, dealing with taxes, banking, paperwork to apply for grants, etc. Every day posed a new challenge, testing my decision to move far away from my family and settle in a new country.
As a practicing Life Coach today, I can say that every day of these past 9 years has been a testament to my resolve to rebuild who I was and what I envisioned for my family. There were days when I was ready to throw in the towel and move back to my home country, India. Learning a totally new way of life coupled with unresolved grief seemed insurmountable. But someone or some small grace would appear, even strangers, and their kindness or help would reinstate my faith that Canada was the right choice.
Following are the lessons I learned to deal with the challenges of adjusting to Canada and create a new life as an immigrant to Canada.
1. Feeling isolated and lonely.
This was my biggest challenge. Moving from Muscat, Oman, where friends and family were a call away, to a place where I didn't have a social or family circle was really hard. The first few months were really difficult as I was not only adjusting to a new country but also adjusting to living as a single mom. I had had no time to grieve my husband’s sudden passing due to a heart attack. I had to move from Muscat, where we had lived for the last 8 years, and the decision between Canada or India had to be made quickly.
Every day, I had to remind myself of the reason why I had chosen Toronto over New Delhi. As a single woman, I knew I could live better here and still provide the kids with a great education and life. I could redesign my own life the way I chose to, as Canada provided me with numerous options for a career and continuing education that I wouldn’t have in India. Restarting your life after 40 was not easy back home. A woman living alone would be even more difficult.
Volunteering at settlement agencies and starting at a retail job, helped me socialize and create a life for myself. Newcomer settlement agencies provided a plethora of services that helped me with my challenges. Volunteering and participating in various programs run by these agencies allowed me to meet others who were in the same boat and I could learn from and share experiences with them and slowly find my footing in life. Starting a retail job also allowed me to support myself and rebuild confidence in myself. I gradually made some friends and developed a support system for myself in this new country and was able to overcome my loneliness.
2. Attitude adjustment
This has been another area of growth for me since I landed in Canada. After the initial excitement and anxiety wore off, I started reminiscing and missing my old way of life! The status and lifestyle that I had previously enjoyed were rearing their ugly heads and taunting me with all that I could not afford or were impossible to attain.
The lifestyle in India and the Middle-East is far more relaxed and many luxuries such as house cleaner or a housekeeper are affordable. Trying to manage a retail job along with running a home was physically and emotionally taxing. Accepting this lifestyle and adjusting my idea of home and housekeeping took a lot of effort. I really needed to learn how things were done here and how to manage life all by myself. It was a challenge that I needed to rise too quickly. Otherwise, I would end up unhappy and dissatisfied, thereby making others around me feel the same way.
As I made the changes in my thinking and dropped the reminiscing, I became happier. I found ways to manage daily life better, enjoying the freedom from old beliefs and ideas, enabling me to be grateful for all the new things I could do and achieve.
It created a shift in me - I became more adventurous and experimented with novel ideas to live a simple and peaceful life. I am now open to more opportunities in life than before and found happiness and growth in my new career in retail.
3. Asking for help
Canada is a country that is geared to helping newcomers adjust and settle here. There are a number of Newcomer Settlement Agencies here that can help you with almost anything you need. I needed help filling out paperwork to apply for grants, finding summer programs for my kids, writing a resume, building confidence in my ability to work in Canada, finding friends and a community. I found them all through the settlement agencies. I realized that I just needed to ask for help and the amazing settlement agencies would find a way to help me.
I joined various programs offered by these agencies to learn to navigate through the culture and life in Canada. I found ways to apply for jobs, build relationships to create job referrals, resume writing and interview skills through these agencies. Volunteering with them allowed me to explore the different ways I could qualify for jobs and positions I was interested in. Meeting other newcomers was also very healing. Knowing that I was not alone in my struggles and asking for help and suggestions from others like me made me relate better to a new culture and way of life, and life was definitely so much easier this way.
I hope that my lessons will be of help to anyone who is new to Canada, and find a way through their struggles in settling here. It is a blessing to be able to live freely and have help while we do that. Knowing that others have been through it and managed to find a way, overcoming the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, is very helpful.