Just The Beginning
September 2011 was the first time I ever took a step in the United States. I remember my first time getting out of the plane; it was very crowded, and I was exhausted. All I wanted was my bed back at home. When I stepped out from the airport, it was very dark and rainy. I remember running to the car so that I wouldn’t get soaked. That day was just the beginning of other struggles I’ve yet to face.
I am from Istanbul, Turkey. It was always warm in Turkey, even during the winter. That transition was difficult for my body as it did not yet regulate well in cold weather. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car and all I could think about was the fact I was in a very different country from where I was born. People spoke a foreign language, and I couldn’t understand anything or anyone. In fact, sometimes when a person is speaking to me I still have trouble understanding because they may talk fast or pronounce things in unusual ways. Sometimes I just give up on trying and just say “yes?”. The Turkish language is so much a part of me that there are even times where I get angry to a point where I forget how to speak English and revert to my native language.
I had always been an easy-going child. It was easy for me to get adjusted to the new life, but this time it wasn’t like that. Everything seemed so scary. The roads, the houses, and the people were all so new to me, and for some reason, I couldn’t adapt. All my life, I lived in a city. I was born in a city and most of my life I also grew up in a city. Unfortunately, I was no longer going to live in a city. Now I was moving to the suburbs of Southampton Massachusetts. Every night in Istanbul I would fall asleep to the various sounds of the city. Some of my favorites were cars honking, buses stopping, and people talking or even laughing. Now I struggled to fall asleep in an unfamiliar silence. When I first came to the United States, I was afraid of the dark. In the city, the night could be mistaken for the day because lights illuminated the landscape. At night, I was able to open my window for a comforting nightlight. In Southampton however, there were no city lights. I could not open my window because the outside was too dark to see even two feet in front of me. It was nothing short of terrifying. Unlike some of my peers, yet undoubtedly similar to others, my coming to the United States was not the happiest of fairytales.
Coming here to the United States was not my decision. If the choice were left to me, I would’ve stayed in Turkey. Being unable to communicate with other humans for roughly three years was not only scary but also frustrating. It made me feel alienated and embarrassed. I always avoided talking to other people even when I learned English because people couldn’t understand my accent. On top of that, I was now living in a different setting. I felt like a fish out of water. I belonged in the city where there were lights and sounds, but I was trapped in a suburb with darkness and silence. However, even though all of these struggles, I am glad I came here. In the United States, I was able to make friendships that I couldn’t establish in Istanbul. It was here in high school where I met my best friend who I have known for three years now. My adopted family is the family I’ve dreamed of being with since I was a little girl. I know that I could never, and would never want to live without them. I may have come here unwillingly, but there is nowhere else I would rather live.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.