Many friends have asked me how I felt after my citizenship ceremony. In summary, I literally feel I am born again. Now as Canadian citizen — holding that piece of paper, my citizenship certificate, was the accomplishment of a life goal that started over a decade ago. It truly had a special meaning to me.
For no apparent reason, I was absolutely nervous that day. Deep down in my heart, I knew what that ceremony represented for Canada, for me, and especially for my kids.
Ten years ago, I was a consultant for the Canadian Embassy in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital city. I was the Canada Fund Coordinator and represented Canada many times in my birth country. I was proud of my job. I spent years supporting the former Canadian International Development Agency mission in Brazil, selecting community projects that merited support. I saw libraries and computer labs in shantytowns transformed; I saw people with disabilities accessing better medical services; I saw human rights advocacy organisations having better resources to conduct their work.
My daily work had a meaning and fulfilled my heart. I also had the pleasure to work with amazing coworkers, both Brazilians and Canadians. I felt sincerely welcomed by the team since my first day of work. Years later, many became close friends.
The decision to apply for permanent residency came naturally. One day, out of curiosity, I attended an information session about immigration to Canada in Brasilia. At that moment, I realised it was the right opportunity at the right moment for my little family. My goal was to raise my two sons in Canada, embedded in the values that I cherish dearly.
My journey to the Canadian citizenship was far from easy. It was full of challenges and adventures that made me grow as an individual, as a community member, and as a global citizen.
Moving required courage to decide to leave behind my family and my friends, my cats and dogs, the place I felt connected to and called home. It required courage to restart a new life from scratch in a cold and strange place that speaks two different languages (First Nations’ languages were not even on my radar at that time). It required courage to become a single mom of two young men, in a new country, without any family support, while attending graduate studies. It was simply too much.
As well, the successful professional I was in Brazil had to adapt to a completely new lifestyle. Reality hit hard during the first semester of classes — doing class assignments, teaching assistance jobs, grading other students’ assignments, keeping up with challenging academic readings and academic writing. I also had to learn how to cook, how to manage and keep the house clean. It also meant no more weekly mani-pedi, and be a full-time mom. To feel lonely, be lonely, be comfortable with being lonely. I am sure I am not the only one who felt that in the first term of classes. Maybe you, the reader, also did.
A new culture, a new home
Still, looking back, I was fortunate to begin my journey in Canada on-campus. Going back to the academia, particularly in a multicultural environment, exposed me to diverse viewpoints that led to rich and thoughtful discussion of a myriad of global issues. I shared exciting philosophical discussions, and co-created a collective decision-making strategic plan. I learned how to share knowledge through storytelling of lived experiences, and how to welcome others to share their stories too, their different perspectives and ideas about the world around us. The collective learning taught me the power of multicultural communities.
I had to learn to be aware of how my culture affects my behaviour and reaction to those around me. I was naturally curious about the “Canadian way of life” and took advantage of every single opportunity to explore this beautiful land, its cultures and traditions. It took time and many down moments for five years to start understanding that my personal, cultural, and social biases and preferences were forged within the Brazilian culture. Paradoxically, I was my culture, and I was not my culture at the same time.
I also learned how powerful is to embrace our own vulnerabilities by sharing my personal struggles, on stage, for hundreds of strangers. Many came to me and offered their support right away. People in my new chosen community truly enjoy helping each other (and I would risk assuming it is a value shared across Canada). It is one example of the Canadian values that I cherish, and wanted my kids to grow embedded within it.
As well, I learned that friendship, despite the country of origin, starts with a wide smile. Being open to new stories, different experiences, tastes, festivals, dances allows you to experience the world without traveling abroad. This is another example of the Canadian culture that I treasure: multiculturalism. Hugs are my most sincere contribution to my community and I know they made a difference for few friends in the past. Each hug I receive makes me a better, happier and healthier person. Unfortunately, there is no indicator to measure that.
At this point of my journey, the decision to apply for Canadian citizenship came naturally. Again, out of curiosity, I attended a dinner discussion about citizenship in Victoria. I realised it was the right step to do for my little family.
So on February 22nd of 2019, under a snow shower, I became a Canadian citizen. Trust me, it was not an easy journey. Resilience is the skill I have exercised the most Canada. I choose to remember the lessons, not the struggles. All memories, emotions, lessons, laughs, and hugs of the last decade were in my heart during the citizenship ceremony. On that special day, I was feeling nervous and excited, happy and sad, curious and hopeful, complete and refreshed, all at the same time.
Above all those feelings was an enormous sense of gratitude to all and each one of you who are part of my Canadian family and have welcomed me and my two young men to this land with so much love.