A Fresh-off-the-boat Immigrant’s ‘Me-Time’

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An FOB’s  Perspective of  Personal Time

My post today is a rebuttal to Sulekha’s – Me-Time – The Sacred Hour. Well, not really a rebuttal as much as the other side of her story. In her post she emphasizes the importance of “me –time” and I couldn’t agree more with her about the sacredness of the time and its utter indispensable character. But here is my story in which that me-time almost seemed like a curse. And this, my dear readers, I am inclined to say, is the voice of innumerable immigrants in the US.

My clamoring for the ‘sacred hour’ was just one of the things that ceased to exist in 2004. That year was the end of what I had thought would be my fairy tale and the beginning of my stay in the US. It was the end of an era and the beginning of another one.

I was married for just about a year then and my life had undertaken a sea change with my husband’s transfer from India to the Land of Stars and Stripes. People often said that marriages have a tendency to do that kind of thing, but I thought they were only “people” talking about “people”. What did I have to do with either set?

So, all for being with the one that I love, I literally uprooted myself from what I called my highly entertaining and successful life (not to mention surrounded with love and warmth to the extent that you think it’s your inheritance) and moved to a place where all other Indians there called me a “FOB”.

When I got to know what that meant though, I was surprised that they intended it to be a tease when it was so true to my situation. Of course I was Fresh off the Boat – what was to hide there? Wasn’t that just another way of saying “not a local”?

A fresh off the boat Indian immigrant finds 'Me-Time' is very different in America without friends, family and work

For a FOB Indian immigrant in America, the view from the window is bleak. (Photo: Maniacal Synergy)

FOB  Tales: The Sounds of Silence, Day after Day

Anyway, so for the first few months this is what my typical day in Danbury, CT looked like –

7 a.m. – day starts with online news and tea; 8 a.m. the person I was there to be with, leaves for work and leaves me alone to fend for the day (How dare he go out for work when I …..).

8 a.m. – 1 p.m. – morning rituals with every action followed by looking out of the window for something or someone and a craving for noise.

1 p.m. – 5 p.m. afternoon nap to break the oh so tiresome day and silence the brain so I could hear some noise outside.

5 p.m. – 7 p.m. –looking out of the window with brain screaming at the silence of snow; hot tea and hotter tears encouraged even more by Lifetime Television.

7 p.m. – 10 p.m. – finally a lot of noise from a battle ranging between me and the culprit who left me alone. Topic in agenda – “Danbury – friend or foe”? Lesson – Beauty really lies in the eyes of the beholder!

So now dear Sulekha (my Mitr) I hope I have amply proven to you how I can really get on my nerves and instead of rejuvenating myself I may turn depressive.

I was of course able to break this ritual later and got to learn the rules of happiness in a new land but the keyword here is “later” – much, much later. During the time my stubbornness lasted I was scared of being alone with me. I wasn’t good company and the situation threatened my very identity.

Kriti is one of the Chatty Divas on Lassi with Lavina, and blogs about love and lie

Kriti Mukherjee

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is a marketing consultant by profession. She says, "I like to think I am a happy person who can make a difference in people's lives. Absolutely love to travel and am nuts about my family. I write to hear my thoughts and to see what people have to say about them." She blogs at http://kriti-howaboutthis.blogspot.com/

36 Comments

  1. Oh but it does get better everyday Kriti :) I’m glad you’ve learned to adapt or at least put out your survival skills but I do understand what you mean. When I was new in N. Africa, an FOB, it took me a while to speak Arabic with the people…and without really expressing myself, I felt like a dying plant…anyhow, I did…but much much later :P…when I came to love the culture and the people 😛 and it was time to go back to my country…

    Those were sacred…not only hours but moments…

  2. Oh my poor, darling sis!! But you made it, and made it big!! And now you have all of us around you….hope we stay together forever and ever now, so we can get on each others’ nerves instead of our own. I had a similar experience, but that was when I’d moved to Bangalore. I hated it in the beginning, and know just how you felt! Lovely read!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Some of us look for “me-time” while others shout out (not really shouting) “I don’t want Me-time”… Being alone in a whole “new world” is extremely hard. I am glad you were able to finally “later” come to terms with it and find happiness outside the “me-time” world.

    Deb

  4. LOL! I know those sounds… have been through it many times as my someone moved around many times! I now outsmart that sound of silence by joining a group called the Sound of Silence Ladies!
    Am smiling….

  5. Hi Kriti,
    You certainly put a new spin on alone time! I love the peace and quiet of being alone, but if I, like you, were put in a similar circumstance, not knowing anyone “out there”, the loneliness would be nigh unbearable. So glad you are no longer feeling that way!
    Blessings!

  6. Kriti, you seem to have touched a chord with these observations – even I can remember the newbie times for me when I was first adjusting to life in Africa and then in the US – that longing for human connections was such an ache! Would love to hear from more readers on their FOB experiences. Thanks Kriti for sharing these very personal stories.

  7. Hey Kriti, I love the article, it is brimming with emotions and something I can relate to. Beautifully said! I still remember how we ran into each other randomly in Times Square a few months after you moved to the U.S., and that was beginning of the end of my non-happy, homesick days, because I knew now I would not be alone and sad.

  8. Kriti – we don’t hear from you often enough – what about everyday? Could you do that lol? Really thought provoking piece! I have moved many times but always within the U.S. Never gave a thought to how lonely it would be to move to another country. Although moving from Boston to Phoenix in the 1970s was like going to another country – actually more like another planet!!! Me time used to be difficult for me but I have learned to enjoy it now just me and my thoughts, all those thoughts speaking really loud, fighting for the top of the agenda list, damn I think I’m beginning to agree with you!

  9. Yes too much time alone is a feed for depression. I am glad you made the adjustments and learned to not fear your own thoughts. I have spent a lot of time changing my brain, but I am getting there. When my children were young we moved from rural Oregon to Tulsa Oklahoma, Yes I was alone, very alone. I had the ability to leave after a few months, the adjustment was just too much, culture shock hitting a family of 7 was a bit much. Loves to you.

  10. In my opinion, it is a combination of things. The fact that you were newly married, so there are some expectations one has of such a relationship; some of them unrealistic and simply fueled by an unproductive mind meandering around a lot of free time. To add to that challenge, a new place, strange culture just doesn’t help. The most significant statement you have made here is “the situation threatened my very identity” A very dangerous place to be in. When one is fast reaching a bursting point with underutilized energy and doesn’t do something constructive with that energy, it can destroy oneself, relationships and life itself. Because we are using this life energy productively we derive the greatest satisfaction. Don’t you think?

    Very good write laced with self-deprecating humor. Thought provoking.

    Cheers
    Padmavani

  11. To be trapped and cornered by a ME is some place that no one wants to be. You don’t have an fob – just move to a new place, that’s all it takes. Great post and god bless

  12. Goddess, tho I smiled at FOB and laughed at the thought of the “encouragement” that Lifetime could provide, this… I must say, is a very simple and honest painting of what the Land Of Opportunities means in a day-to-day sense… YES I am sure you made it big like S said, but it wasn’t easy is the point!! and you made it well… thanks for being the voice of the whoever we are here!
    :)

  13. “whoever” was supposed to be in brackets… LOL. aka “aliens”… 😉 wink wink to that!!

  14. Interesting. I think I’d have to agree that there was more at work than just being alone. It’s hard to make the most of your time when your surroundings are unfamiliar.. “Me time” is essential if you don’t have enough of it and best when you can escape from it if you want to. xox

  15. Glad to have you here with family and friends, and like Swati says we can get on each others nerves now instead of you feeling alone in an unfamiliar place.Moving to a new place is hard, all of us have gone through it but finding time for yourself in the true sense is the best Me-time in the world.

  16. Hey Melissa – thanks for your meaningful comment! It seems like my situation was almost identical to yours. When I had everything that I wanted from the country – it was times to leave. Do you think there is a message in there for the likes of us??? Hmmm – New thought. I love your comment.

  17. @Deb – yes I did and it was wonderful. I think the to a large extent – I was my biggest enemy. My frame of mind was such that I didn’t want to look at anything constructively and that led me to waste a whole lot of time. Anyway – all’s well that end’s well I guess : )). Thanks for your comment!

  18. @Corinne – great question! One that I had wanted to elaborate on in this piece itself. I am back to craving me time here and make sure I have it. India is a place where even if you are alone you hardly get that space – if not with anyone else than with house helpers, dhobis, salesmen etc etc who keep giving you company all the time – LOL

  19. @Martha – thank you so much for your comment and understanding. Yes it was only unbearable because there was too much of it… : ))

  20. @Lavina – its kinda selfish but I am so glad that many of us have gone through it and can associate with each other on the topic. And you are welcome …

  21. @Bhavna – you are such a sweetheart – let me tell you that I had no clue I was being useful in any way at that time : )). I only saw relief – thought I was going to be more of a taker with nothing at all to give… And as far as you are concerned that is what I still think : )

  22. @Jim – you work wonders for my ego. How about you send me these kinda comments every hour or so : ) And yes you are sounding way too much like me – LOL

  23. @Jan – that does sound like a huge hurdle to cross. Not only dealing with your own mind but of a family of seven’s. Were you the brunt of all the bickering that went around? I am so glad you made a quick escape though… I just let out a big sigh of relief.

  24. @Padmavini – it definitely was a combination of things… Everything came together to work constructively in ruining my happiness! You do know your stuff though. Thank you so much for putting some thought into my situation and commenting. Love it!

  25. Roy – yes that’s what I did but at a time when I was starting to shed off that definition of me. I was actually starting to get colored in the shades of the land… Thank you so much for your comment.

  26. @Chokher – yes it was journey that I am very proud of indeed. Would love to know what yours has been like. And yes right – alien – how could I forget that :)

  27. @Adriene – I must learn to put things in a nutshell as beautifully as you just did. I love your line – ““Me time” is essential if you don’t have enough of it and best when you can escape from it if you want to.” I think you should copyright that asap : ))) Thank you for your comment.

  28. Tapas Mukherjee on

    Kriti: It’s a candid outflow of an fob experience. Yes, it must have been very tough for someone who always hated being left alone. Good post.

  29. My dear Kriti…my heart goes out to u…I can imagine that loneliness,but I guess each one has their own way of getting over “me time”…I have had my share…till my daughter was not born…great post…and take care.

  30. I’m glad you learned how to cope with being alone as I know too well how difficult it is being a FOB….Not speaking the language or having any friends is a challenge for anyone. These days I often enjoy the silence and serenity of being alone while other times it’s so nice to have friends and chaos around me. Thanks for giving us your view of things!

  31. @Alpana – thank you very much for your comment. I got over it quickly though, as soon as I found some friends and soon after a job… I was back to my normal self : )

  32. @David – well thankfully I spoke the language and that was a blessing. Silence and serenity are wonderful and I do not negate their importance but not when the other factors in life are challenged you know. Thank you for coming by.