Nearly eight years ago I was migrating to the US. My ex-husband and I visited San Francisco where he took this picture of me at Immigration Point. Years of roaming and emotional challenges had left me deeply depressed, feeling lost, not wanting to back to the Netherlands. Unsure where home was — or what that word even meant.
From my journal: “Don’t want to drift anymore and don’t want to be alone in another new country. One I don’t even seem to like much.”
“… my once rosy picture of life has shriveled into a dark nightmare. What a shithole it is, and what a curse to be aware of it.”
Last month I went back to San Francisco on invitation by Translated to sail on their Swan 65 with world champion Paul Cayard. Also, there were the Head of Localization at Airbnb Salvatore Giammarresi, Teresa Marshall of Salesforce, and others. I decided to make a weekend out of it. Chris Thomas shared his insider knowledge of North Beach and I worked, socialized, rode my bike, and this time wrote more hopeful lines in my journal.
On one of my rides I came upon Immigration Point and recognized it from that August 15th, 2014. Thrown back to the intensity of that day, the whirlwind and insecurities, I could see myself standing there, hurting, reflective, and confused. I imagined seeing myself now from that perspective. Healthy, confident, and successful.
In this place I recognized the eight-year span of my journey in the US from a broke Dutch village girl without a college degree to a settled — yet sometimes restless — CEO of an international publishing company. It’s the epitome of the American Dream. Right?
I’ve learned how to smile, after having my teeth fixed. I know how to manage a conversation, after having unintentionally insulted people. I’ve learned to manage my time because self-motivation is crucial in a country as unconcerned with structure as the USA. Integration doesn’t just happen, it takes intention, attention, and hard work. You get beat up along the way and face the decision to stay or leave again and again after asking yourself, “is it worth the effort?”
Adjusting means learning. Learning means listening. Listening means being open to other people’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. Without empathy, intercultural movement is primed to fail.