I reached an important milestone this week that made me stop, think and take stock. Just a couple days ago -- February 24 to be exact -- I celebrated my very first 'Canadaversary.' It marked one year since the official ceremony when I received Canadian Citizenship.
Receiving citizenship is a big deal. And for me, it marked the end of an 11-year process that would see me grow from an 18-year-old backpacker with a dream and a love of the Great White North, to a fully-fledged Canadian with a home and a career in beautiful Vancouver, BC. Words cannot express how proud I am to call myself a citizen of this incredible country.
And I think back to my early twenties, smack-bang in the middle of this process. I remember taking on odd jobs to make ends meet and to pass the time while I waited for my immigration paperwork to be approved. Vividly, I recall having a job that I hated with a passion but one thing that helped me through each day was the desktop background on my office computer. It displayed a photo of the Vancouver skyline, capturing the water and residential towers just opposite Granville Island (see image below). Little did I know that just a couple years later I would find myself living in an apartment on Beach Avenue, right behind the buildings I once looked at longingly from behind my computer.
The experience of obtaining Canadian Citizenship has taught me so much about following my dreams.
Here's what I've learned.
1. It can happen
Most important point - it can happen. Don't ever let anyone tell you it can't. I remember the response from the very first person I talked to about immigrating to Canada. At the time I was 18 years old, on a temporary visa and living in a backpacker's hostel. I approached a representative at the local BUNAC office. I wondered, what was the process if I wanted to stay in Canada? "Don't do it," she responded sharply. "It's too hard. You wouldn't qualify to emigrate, anyway." Thankfully, I paid no attention to this. I did my own research, and then... well, this leads me to my next point.
2. It takes hard work
It can happen, but you have to work for it. For me, I did it on my own. Nobody did it for me. I completed every form, responded to every letter from immigration and paid all of the fees. I persevered through medical tests, fingerprinting, reference letters, criminal record checks, creating lists of address of anywhere I had ever lived, listing every job I've had... the list goes on. There were so many times when I could have given up. Just said it was too difficult and thrown in the towel. It took 11 years of hard work, grit, patience and uncertainty but it was worth it.
3. It's your responsibility
You need to get it done. Not your spouse, not your friends, not your family. Nobody is going to do it for you. It's up to you to take charge of your life and make it happen. Nobody knocked on my door and handed me a life in Canada. I took responsibility and I followed my dreams and made them a reality. Even the timing of my immigration approvals was a challenge -- six months out, I was given a date by which I had to arrive in Canada. So in the midst of a global recession, I took the big leap and I boarded a one-way flight to Vancouver with nothing but two suitcases and sheer determination. It changed the course of my life, offering challenges and rewards along the way. Today, I'm so proud to call Canada my home.
A closing thought. When I announced I was leaving for Canada, my friends and family were incredibly supportive. But from some people I knew at the time I heard a surprisingly common reaction of, "Oh I wish I could do that."
Cut the crap. You can do it. I wasn't born with some magical gene to get sh*t done. It wasn't easy for me to emigrate on my own. It was in fact the most challenging experience of my life. But I had a dream and I followed it. I kept going when the going got tough. I kept at it and I worked my ass off.
In chasing my dreams, I learned that you need to drop the excuses. Be honest with yourself. Roll up your sleeves. Do the work, and get after it.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST