Hello loves! Happy Wednesday in your neck of the woods! Today I’m telling you why I’m finally at peace with not getting Canadian citizenship or moving back across the ocean anytime soon–something I’ve been struggling so much with for these last few months.
It was a cleaning sort of day, sometime last week in the afternoon. I was puttering around my craft room, straightening and putting things away. I pulled a few sheets of paper out from under a box, and I realized it was my application for Canadian Verification of Status. I’d printed it off about a week earlier, and there it was, a moment of excited plans completely abandoned to hide under some cardboard.
I stood there for a moment and remembered my very recent plans to apply for citizenship.
Sometime after I became a Canadian permanent resident, my landing paperwork went missing, never to be found again. I didn’t need this paperwork to renew my residency status two years ago, but I would need it to apply for citizenship. I had started plotting and planning citizenship a while back and had suddenly decided to go through with it and secure a stable future residence should we decide to leave England one day. Since I didn’t have the original paperwork anymore, I would need to pay $30 and send for a Verification of Status.
And once that arrived, there really wouldn’t be anything holding me back from applying for citizenship. My heart had soared right up out of the strange homesickness I’ve been mired in for months. Feeling a bit emotional with the tumultuous excitement, I had used my shaking fingers to start asking online sources about the process. In my mind I started daydreaming about flying to Toronto for the ceremony that would declare me a permanent part of the country. It was something I had wanted to have ever since that day in 2010 when I entered Pearson with an entry visa and left Pearson with permanent resident status.
From the first day I set foot in Canada, I felt like I belonged there. I eagerly put down my roots and settled in, swearing to never leave. If I became a citizen, I would never have to worry about losing my resident status due to living in the UK. I would be able to move back whenever I wanted and I could easily sponsor Jon so he wouldn’t have to worry about a potentially risky work visa. I could be confident and at peace that I could one day return with little to no issues.
I checked the CIC (Canadian Immigration & Citizenship) residency calculator, which adds up your days lived in Canada, subtracts all the days you were out of the country, and tells you if you’ve lived in the country for the required amount of days to be eligible for citizenship. I checked to see if I would still qualify if I applied on January 1st of next year, and I would! This would give me a few months to have everything ready, and I would probably get citizenship sometime in the summer. Maybe even around the time of the Canadian National Exhibition. Still daydreaming, I imagined being able to go to the CNE again with my friends.
But soon enough, reality hit me.
I’d have to take a certified English course to prove I fluently spoke the language. The one I knew of that was approved of by the CIC was in Toronto and it was over $100. And it was all because I was homeschooled and therefore didn’t have transcripts proving that I was fluent.
So that would be three flights, all within a relatively short time period. The first for the English course, the second to take the citizenship test, and the third to attend the ceremony. Return flights between the UK and Canada are not exactly cheap, and of course there were the fees of the English course, the paperwork I needed, and the citizenship application. Did I really want to do this to us and our bank accounts, we who are still reeling from my UK visa fees, the flights, and being new renters who needed to start from scratch with new furniture and housewares?
My heart no longer fluttering in excitement, I went into the living room and discussed it with Jon. We decided that we’d be able to do it, but that it wasn’t an ideal situation.
When I returned to the craft room to mull it over and tried to ignore the answer already sinking into my mind, I clicked through the CIC website and I saw that the rules for citizenship qualification were changing around this autumn. If I waited until January 1st to apply, I would no longer qualify because I wouldn’t have lived in Canada for the required amount of time.
I really wouldn’t be able to apply any sooner than January, given the financial circumstances and having to wait for the Verification of Status to come in. The answer weighing like a leaden weight in my mind suddenly fell through to my feet and made its presence known.
The excitement and hope in me died as quickly as a light switch being flicked off.
I was emotional for a few minutes. But then, I felt the strange sensation of feeling liberated from my self-imposed mental torment about the situation.
With a jolt, I came to the realization that I’d been scared of losing my identity, because my identity I associated with Canada.
I loved where I lived. It was a tremendous part of my life; it freed me from my previous life, it made me grow as a person, it showed me so many amazing things and people that I dared not take for granted. It was a gigantic part of my soul and it had been tightly woven into the very fabric of my being. The idea of never again getting to live in that place felt like I was ripping that fabric apart. Like all the important pieces of me would bleed out through the gaping rip until I no longer existed as I knew it.
This is something I will be talking about in another blog entry to come soon, but I’ve always struggled with my personal identity. I’ve always clutched onto things, people, and places to give myself some manner of self-stability. For so long, I haven’t known who I was, and hearing my own name sounded so foreign somehow. So when I dug those roots deep into Canada nine years ago, I didn’t even realize that I was using those roots to desperately feed my lacking sense of identity.
I was truly rocked by this realization. I took a deep breath. Then I took a few more. I steered through an anxious storm and I closed my eyes, just breathing evenly and talking to my own mind.
You don’t need Canada to be Mary.
You don’t need England to be Mary, either.
You’re you, no matter where you live on this planet. Nothing can ever change that.
Sure, places and such can enrich that identity through experiences, but they are certainly not what make you Mary.
Cherish the past and thank it for helping you grow as a person. But if you keep looking behind you, you’ll never see how wonderful the present is. Welcome the changes. Welcome the beauty of it all.
The here and now is what matters. Realizing my identity is already valid and fabulous and whole as it is is what matters. Living in the same country with this wonderful man is what matters. This is all part of a glorious adventure, and if that one day leads me back to the place I once called home, then so be it. I’ve called a handful of different places home in my life so far, and I may give that name to many more. But right now, England is home.
That part of my soul that loves Canada will never rip from the fabric of my being. Instead, beautiful new things will be woven into the fabric alongside it, and it will all make up the colourful tapestry of an ever-evolving person.
I returned to the living room and told Jon that I wasn’t going to apply. And I felt awe at myself… because I was truly okay with that.
I was already prepared to apply for British citizenship when the time comes. Having citizenship in the same country as my husband would further secure our future together and I would have permanent peace of mind with that. There’s talk of freedom of movement being eventually introduced between the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. If this comes to pass, then we wouldn’t have to worry about visas or immigration at all anyway.
And besides, I could always go back and visit. My adopted Canada family isn’t exactly the type to flit off and disappear, and Toronto isn’t going anywhere either. They would always be waiting for me, and they will never leave my heart or my life.
So last week when I pulled that Verification of Status application out from under the boxes and looked at it, I didn’t feel any sadness at all.
I let it go.
And I felt at peace. Ready to move on.
I went into the living room to place the forms into the recycling box. And I looked out the big windows at Leicester, and I smiled.