This might look like an innocuous address sitting on a plain brown envelope but this packet represents a series of major changes to our life.
To fully understand, let’s go back to September 2003. George W. Bush was president and the Iraq war was well underway. We were temporarily located in Albuquerque, New Mexico where my company had sent me for a long term project. We were at dinner with a couple of friends who were telling us about a horrific day they had.
“So we were driving down the highway when all of a sudden this guy in a pickup forced our car off the road and then came over to yell at us about the ‘No War!’ bumper sticker we had.”
Terrified, and wanting to inject a little humour in to the situation, we said “That’s crazy! You know? We said back when Pat Buchanan was speaking at the Republican National Convention in 1992 that if the Republicans got any worse, we were moving to Canada.”
They didn’t laugh though. Instead, they said three words that would change our lives forever:
“What’s stopping you?”
Indeed. What was stopping us? By the time we got home I was fired up. I opened up Google and started looking for folks in my industry who I might go look for and within a few days had sent out a few resumes. Surprisingly, just a week or so later I got a call from the HR department of one of the companies and not long after that I had a very successful phone interview that was followed up by an in-person interview to make sure it was a good fit and also to see if it would even be possible for me to get a work permit. (As many of you know, it was not only successful, it was my best customs experience ever.)
And so it was that four months after we were asked what was stopping us, we found out that nothing was. We moved to Toronto in January of 2004 and no place has ever felt more like home.
And then a few years later, as I was checking on the status of my work permit renewal, an immigration officer said “You know, this is called a temporary work permit – if you are going to stay, you need to apply for permanent resident status.” And so, thankfully, my company made that happen and in 2009 we became card carrying (literally) permanent Canadian residents.
But of course we can’t vote or serve on a jury and even though we’re considered permanent residents, there is something that feels somewhat temporary about it. It’s like the difference many people see between “living together” and being married. And so for the past six years we’ve been eligible to apply but I’ve procrastinated on actually doing it. No good reason, mind you, just “it seems hard.” I justified some of the delay by trying to get a copy of my high school transcripts sent to me as proof of my English proficiency – but I asked for it in June – school was closed. But I’d be lying if I said that was all. It really was just “I don’t wanna.”
In February I made a bit of progress only to find that all my business travel to the US resulted in my spending so much time there I needed an FBI background check. I went that day to get fingerprints taken and sent them off. And then it was months before they even processed it. And then it came back.
And then I went on one more trip to the US last week. My son and I rode our bikes around the state that feels most like home – the one I’d be most likely to want to live in were I unable to live in Canada. And as I did it, I realized: This doesn’t feel like home at all to me. I felt as culturally out of place as I did when I was visiting Amsterdam – except I found it far less desirable. The current government, and even more so, the current polarized state of the populace (we saw our first hints of it back in Albuquerque, now that I think of it) makes it really unpleasant to be there. I won’t likely be going back there for anything other than business for the foreseeable future. And if I don’t even want to go back for a visit, why would I remain simply a permanent resident? Meanwhile, even Quebec, where I barely speak the language felt so much more like home and a place that I wanted to be than the state I was raised in and spent a good part of my 20’s wishing I could move back to.
And so today I finished our applications, took our photos, paid our fees and will be mailing that plain brown envelope out. Once processed, we’ll have a test to take (better start studying!) and then, provided we pass, we’ll finally be citizens of the country that feels more like home than my own home feels.