Some moments in this life don't last long, but overstay their welcome. They feel less like a chapter or lesson and more like a motif: a force enveloping your existence. They bind and constrain you. However, with time you learn how to navigate their boundaries and, if lucky, even exist outside them. You learn to be more than just that single juncture.
I was very young when my mother migrated to Canada. She was a single parent traveling from China with a son wrapped in a warm blanket and nothing more than a strong spirit. We arrived on the Eastern coast and eventually made our way to Western Canada. Our arrival began with extended family and eventually became more quiet (and insulated at times) as we progressed. The journey, like all immigrant journeys, was difficult. I have memories of my mom arriving from a long work day, tired from the job, exhausted from exercising a language that didn't feel natural on her tongue, and depleted from the absence of connection. She had left behind home a long time ago. She always said she did it for me. We had no future in China. Her lonely journey was my inheritance: a piece of her I would always carry.
I grew up admiring her for her dedication and her inability to accept defeat. She is a persistent woman. Moving to a new country and leaving behind the old is always challenging, but migrating with a young child, no education, and no companion carries its own unique baggage. Her experiences sometimes created borders between us; perhaps it was the work, language, experiences, or culture, but I couldn't always understand her. She sometimes felt like a reflection, visible but always out of grasp.
As I grew up, these boundaries slowly crumbled, and bridges were drawn in their place. The experiences that bound us to each other became a piece of history we could share. I wouldn't say we completely understand each other. Our migration, specifically her migration to Canada, left an imprint on our relationship. In trying to leave China, we found ourselves bound to two different worlds in the same house. However, we try a little more each day to step outside our rigid walls. We try to meet somewhere in the middle. It can be challenging, but it feels more possible every day.
Narrating your migration story is odd because people want it to be a single tale. Sadly, it's not. Migration is less like a chapter and more like a motif. It affects travelers even when the journey is assumed to have ended. That is both its strength and its greatest weakness.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Vipasna Nangal and Jason Tong