The challenge: New York, migration and the menopause
I had done it! Without hesitation, just like that! Enough is enough! Now my conscience was bothering me. How was I going to live with myself after this. What was my next move? I looked in the mirror and saw guilt on my face. I should have discussed my issues with someone, anyone. There were people designated to take on these types of issues before you make a move. My sister would be the hardest to convince. She was going to give a verdict the minute I opened my mouth to explain. It would then take weeks to convince her that I had to do it for self preservation. This was my life after all. There were too many things going on at the same time. It was difficult to stabilize love and focus on the job at the same time. One should have been stable, but no it had to be simultaneous. That was a drastic move I had made. There was no turning back now. I had to face them and confess what I had done. They were going to have a field day on my case. One thing I always told myself was that, if something disrupted my peace of mind to the extent where I felt an equilibrium shift I would quit. Yes, quit. No job was worth your peace of mind.
President Trump was in power and people were asking many questions about his presidency. Some say they had taken what appeared to be the lesser of two evils. There was never an explanation that clarified exactly what that meant! Hilary Clinton was a popular candidate. She had given President Trump a run for his perceived or real billions.
Still she was a woman and and many skeptics were not that impressed with having a female in power. In the end President Trump had made his way to the 45th presidency of the US. His belief is that ‘America has a lot of potential’. So on this basis will America achieve greatness beyond it’s current state? We will see! There were other issues but they are not ready for this forum. My confession is that when it comes to politics my input is usually zero. So hence my touching bases only on political mindsets and adventure.
New York City was filled with the hustle and bustle of all types of individuals with life’s usual activities. I had found the city quite interesting in a captivating sort of way. There was always some movement going on in this great big city, night and day. There were times when one got the impression of being in a circus with different shows. Each player had his role perfected somehow. Everyone performing for the benefit of others. In this case everyone was a performer and also a spectator. An intriguing paradox if ever there was one. I lived in the heart of ritzy Harlem for a while. I loved it but I ain’t no city girl. the suburbs fit my lifestyle and general demeanor better.
To be in the land of opportunity meant an ongoing search for wealth and success to better self and ultimately self actualize by whatever means possible or should I say available.
For some the need to obtain wealth quickly becomes overwhelmingly intense. New York City has it’s share of employment issues and individuals are working two and three jobs to maintain life styles. For some it is a case of survival. New York City looks good on the outside hence the inward migration from all states and the outer world. The concrete jungle as it is called is one of the largest melting pots in the world. Of course inward migration is common to most cities.
Many political changes had come about over the last decade. The last chapter I wrote in the book ‘On being an entrepreneur” gave more attention to them with references to Obama the ‘black man’ in the white house. President Obama is mixed race. There were loads of debates over whether he was born in the United States (US), or somewhere in Africa. His african culture is not obvious except for the color of his skin. His mannerisms are very American. The relevance of which did not directly impact on his ability to relate to this country and the rest of the world in articulate dimensions.
Despite his position as president of the United States Obama did not appear to have wealth to flaunt. There was no declaration of billionairism. His overall mannerisms were that of humility and academic confidence with some hints of humor and joviality. He, from time to time employed a little bit of the fun loving side of the previous President Clinton. Most would remember President Clinton’s dance and how he had us and other nations of the world moving to the Macarena. Still he was a domesticated, faithful type of fellow whose life appeared to revolved around his family except for one alleged incident which I will not mention in this forum. Mostly a good example to the nation and the world.
The nation was fairly calm during the Obama presidency. Known as an eloquent speaker he put everything into perspective every time. He loved people and was a crowd stimulator. People just naturally gravitated towards him wherever he went. His smile was always there, infectious, and he had presence. First lady Michelle Obama had become an icon. She carried herself well in any and every forum. She too was an academic and never disappointed when she had to speak. She was well loved by the majority. Her humility and general persona reflected that of her husband. For the Obama’s whenever they came into my line of vision, I would get an automatic thought that went, family matters. Their example of a real nuclear family was present and effortless. Had the presidency been able to continue for more than 2 four year terms the United States might have been able to adapt such a family unit over time. The overarching result of such qualities in a leader should have resulted in the population in America improving its family relationships. The knock on result being emulation by the other defaulting nations of the world. America is a world power and as such have great influence with far reaching effects throughout the universe. Of course it would have taken many terms in office for such a paradigm shift to occur. Of course there was the introduction of gay marriages which created a bit of a stir among many. It was a new way of thinking but yet it didn’t tear the nation apart. The not so bold became courageous since there was no reason to hide anymore. This too is for a different forum.
America,or should I say New York City (NYC) was not necessarily the most spiritual country in the world if ever there was such. In fact its spirituality according to some left a lot to be desired. Even those proclaiming to be christians sometimes made wealth and money matters a priority. One couldn’t help but wonder where was the nations godliness in all this. Some were still questioning whether there was a ‘God” while others asked if Jesus ever existed. There were hundreds of denominations in NYC itself. The presence of which did not appear in the characteristics of the population itself.
Since coming to New York City I’ve seen and heard accounts of the partial commitment associated with worship and spirituality. This was a far cry from what I had experienced in the United Kingdom (UK). The belief in Scripture, the faith placed in the awesomeness of God and His son Jesus Christ appeared more real among Christian associates in the UK. As a result of the similarity and differences in experienced in both places I decided to change my writing genre. Now let me get back on track!
So I had quit my job in NYC. I did not have another job lined up yet, nor did I know exactly what I was going to do next. I had experienced things that I would never talk about. Despite the work place being unionized one did not necessarily feel supported. Unions support was done through volunteers who were also your peers. What if your peers were part of your issue. Who do you turn to? I knew for a fact that I needed to shift away from what I was doing.
I’m still wondering if it was me or was my union just totally ineffective. In the end I just couldn’t take it any more and decided to move on for peace of mind. I was trying out being an entrepreneur in NYC. It was not easy but that was going fairly well and I had some income coming in. It was all about survival. I was not yet pensionable and even if I was I didn’t have enough money nor was I old enough to retire totally. I was doing a side hustle but that was seasonal. Supporting individuals here and there with editing kept me focused and occupied. This was not going to generate enough income to sustain me so I start4ed a website and added exotic scarfs and Camis. In the meantime I am still looking for a large entrepreneurship which would generate some viable income.
It had all starterd when I left the United states to travel to the Caribbean for a three month rejuvenation period. I am a writer and Author who had widely discussed the culture of the people of Montserrat in the Caribbean. I started out writing about the culture and adaptation process of the same people in the United States. Some way along the line I switched to the title ‘Journey’ focusing on my movement’s from the UK to the United States and later completed in ‘Paradise, also known as, the Emerald Isle of he Caribbean.’ Formerly known of course by the name Montserrat. It also carries the name ‘Alliougana’ given to it by it’s indigenous people the Arawaks who were Amerindians.
I had bought my ticket about 11pm on the night of December 24th 2011. As I headed out I had no idea that I was going to be away for a very long time. I had requested no pay leave from my job as a Specialist Nurse at the large teaching hospital in East London. My speciality was neurology and I loved my job. The last sixteen years had brought with it experiences after experiences that most people would never have in their life time. Nature had done it’s thing over and over again. With each disruption had come some kind of major change mostly for the better. One could not control nature but had the ability to rebuild each time.
I’m pursuing my dream not withstanding it’s not ‘American’. Or British for that matter! It really doesn’t matter whether it takes me a day or a decade, it will happen because I have faith. I had left Britain with the hope of spending up to three months in paradise. Discerning my paradise from another’s had become something of an art form since face bookers had trashed it.
With no obvious intention of offending, the verdict was reached that everyone’s paradise is not the same. So in a sense I was forced to reconsider that term when referring to the little island of my birth. Ironically after some consideration Montserrat is still the only place on earth I would consider a paradise.
So here I am in New York City or the ‘jungle’ as I sometimes call it trying to find that dream. Land of opportunity had turned out to be also one of distractions. Of all the cities I have visited right here in the USA and abroad, New York is the one that keeps the brain and body working over time. The immigration system in this country had tightened since 911. Some schools of thought is that ‘911’ is used too often to implement and remove.
By the way that number is almost like a password. It was the key to why major actions and policies were born. Everything was blamed on this number, all the delays, the not happening any more and the privacy faux pas. I had a good laugh when the body scanner at the airports were being birthed. Thank God there are no perverts here or passengers would be squirming under scrutiny no video ever captured. So 911 might have been a number played for the lottery many times over as one can imagine.
It was not easy having residential status in America. When you’re good and ready to come having taken care of your sick mother and pursued your masters degree, justification of absence is required. Tax filing is taken seriously. Who wants the IRS breathing down their necks seeking answers for non filing. I was accustomed to the question by now. Still when it came I was not ready to answer! I surely was not prepared for the response to my answer. This time it was eighteen months rather than eleven. My anxiety was controlled. I knew I had done what every green card holder feared. The immigration officer had taken my photo with his video cam before posting the question. Looking for a matching iris he commanded me to look directly into the camera. I squirmed but did as he commanded. My own private summer or the menopause, a womans nemesis was coming on slowly, building up inside me like a pressure cooker. As the heat infused my body I looked him squarely in the eyes pondering for a split moment what the outcome would be if I lied. I was not a good liar so the only option for me was to stick to the truth. The heat was rising up and I could feel the tension building in me. I had messed up this time. As a resident I should have been back in the country at least five months ago. no one had bothered to inform me of the particular form one should complete if intending to be out of the country for an extended period. Without changing expression the immigration officer gathered up my travel documents and placed them in a red folder. In a firm voice and documents held up too high as far as I was concerned; he instructed me to walk across the room to the far end where a small office was located. My walk of uncertainty appeared to take a lifetime. My private summer had calmed down a bit and thankfully I hadn’t broken out in sweat.
With a silent prayer I walked swiftly across the room holding the envelope at an angle with an attempt to disguise it. My inner summer continued slowing down and I was getting cooler. My temperature was returning to normal. Great I thought as I entered the room. I was ushered to a waiting area where a number of other individuals were sitting. I was seen quickly and a respectable officer in a cool quiet tone informed me that I should have completed a specific form to indicate absence from the US. Had I known that I would be out of the country for so long I should have done this officially with no penalty. He didn’t stop there. The question was asked again, why the long absenc from the US? My reply had remained constant for the last four years.
I was studying for my masters degree. The City University in London could verify this. Infact I had documents to show and even a copy of my completed dissertation or thesis if he cared to read the twenty page document. Well the synopsis at the beginning should be enough to shed light on the contents of the entire document anyway.
So I watched him keenly, never blinking an eyelid. I knew what was coming. I had heard all the stories from my Caribbean and British counterparts. As I waited I felt the tell tale sign of my private summer rising again , the menopause annoying in its presence. My face was getting hot and flushed as I continued to give my second reason. Can’t he see I’m having hot flashes? What is wrong with these men. Don’t they understand the impact the menopause has on a lady? I was expressionless as I told the story. Mom had been ill for a long time. From the time I got my US residency I had been caring for her. She was a very resilient British Caribbean woman. We cared for our own. Nursing homes were not an answer to aging for many Caribbean folk.
So as I told the story to the officer and my face got pinker I could see the look of skepticism on his face. I guess he thought I was flushing from trying to mislead him. I’m not lying I screamed on the inside.
It’s the menopause.
Men O pause!!
Can’t you see? Look!
Too embarassed to say it aloud I kept silent and wished I could remove all of my clothes.
He would be in for a pleasant surprise I thought. My values jumped to the forefront and I felt a bit embarass about my thoughts.
Go your way and don’t let it happen again I imagined him saying.
If only I could take this tighter than tight demin off and this winter coat, I thought, then I could breath freely. I removed the denim slowly in my mind gaining relief would be the best experience I could have right now. The heat was becoming too much for me. He was talking. I was listening but not focusing.
Say what you like, I thought but I’m taking these heavy clothes off. He smiled! What are you smiling about? I broke out in sweat not from what he was saying, but rather from the heat inside me. Did he think I was on something and was going through withdrawal? I wondered. Why did this heat choose today to bother me? I only experience these summers once every three months or so.
Just one or two episodes and then I was free until next time. The heat had not lasted long the other times. Today it appeared to go on and on indefinitely. Bad timing I thought! My relatives are outside waiting for me and I had no way of contacting them. Not good. I wiped the sweat from my face.
My mind was wandering. Coming out of this reverie I realized that I didn’t want to hear the verdict of my over stay from my country of residency in which I had never spent an entire month. I sighed loudly and took a sip of water from the bottle in my hand bag. Clearing my throat I refocussed just in time to hear the officer give the verdict. You must either remain in the country or continue on your way and return here every six months he repeated.
My mouth fell open in surprsise. Stay here? Serious? What about my three months in Montserrat? What? Am I hearing right? What about China? The plan was to spend some time in the US then on to the beautiful paradise hometown I originated from. My final destination was the Republic of China to teach English in a University. My agenda was about to be changed without my permission. He said I could leave. I was in limbo. Leave for where?
The summer heat had stopped without me realizing it. O dear! What a dilemma. I love New York City. Don’t get me wrong. I had been coming here for over twenty years to spend summer times with my siblings and dad. I enjoyed myself every time. Still I was not ready to come in and stay indefinitely.
There was so much to do out there and I had things to wrap up, people to meet loose ends to tie up. What am I going to do? So this is how people settle eh! Settle and marry without any real intention to. It is called circumstance and situation. I realised I was about to settle. I had already booked a career break in London. I couldn’t continue on to my island paradise. Everything being considered the safer option would be to stay and do ‘my time’ or ‘settle’. The freezing had stopped. At least one thing was sorted for the moment. New York city was teaming with life as usual. My brother in law had picked me up. I didn’t need a guided tour. I was a resident by nature of coming in every year to get my passport stamped. Manhattan was all lighted up. It was christmas Eve. People were out and about partying, drinking, clubbing and having a good time. The jungle was very much alive and noisy. Not with animals but people of different cultures, colors and creeds. The World Trade Centre was no longer on the sky line. It was gone. I had a sad flash back for a moment. It didn’t last. Don’t cry over spilt milk I remember mom saying time and again.
The decision was made suddenly! I have a dream!
So I’m repeating the same behavior again. Long distance romance! Second chances work sometimes. Had I not learnt anything from the first? I argued within myself back and forth. This situation was different I told my inner being. How so? Well the first was due to circumstances beyond my control. O dear. Hear we go again. This one is also due to circumstances beyond my control. This is all about self preservation. There was no turning back though. It was too late. The die has been cast. I am staying in New york. I live here now. Only one thing can change that. So now I would never know if that relationship would have worked or not!
My sister was calling to see how far we’d gotten. We were almost at my favorite fried chicken shop in a favorite avenue. We did the same routine every year. He would pick me up and drive direct to the shop to buy me fried chicken. The only time I ever ate that food was when I came to New York City. They had the best I had ever tasted after KFC on my visits to St Johns Antigua and Kingston Jamaica. I bought it myself this time while he waited in the car. This was a first. I was resident wasn’t I? Almost American despite citizenship. It was another 5 years before I got my citizenship.
I am still working on my dreams of love, wealth and status! I will get there, it is early days yet and this is the land of opportunity.
This excerpt was taken from the soon to be published book, ‘The Journey’ . It highlights some of the adventures of a British lady who left London to migrate to New York City.