In four days I will have been a permanent resident in Canada for one full year. Of the 365 days, I have spent 302 in Ontario. The other 63 days comprise trips to the U.S. to visit family, take care of winding up business and to finish moving chores. It's been quite a year.
- Landing - It was wonderful to finally come to Canada as an immigrant after so many years in process. The landing process took a lot of preparation, but was easy because of it. My love and I will celebrate this day each year in August.
- Driver's license and Health Card - I have to admit, it was difficult emotionally to release my U.S. drivers license for a Canadian one. That ID was so ubiquitous to me that I even had the 12-character number memorized. But getting an Ontario license was another step in my integration, as was getting my OHIP Health Card. I felt like I was really on my path to being a citizen once I received them.
- The doctor will see you - What do you mean I don't have to pay? Very odd for me the first time I needed to see a doctor and I didn't have to pay for the services. While I DO pay through my taxes each year, in the U.S., you pay something significant every time you see a medical professional, whether you have insurance or not. I was paying over $3000 a year for insurance I couldn't use before I immigrated.
- New home - My Love and I moved to our new home a little over two months after I arrived. We thought we would move within the first year, but our hand was forced. We ended up in a beautiful condo in a wonderful neighbourhood and love it here.
- Crossing the border - The first time a U.S. customs agent confirmed that I lived in Canada, not the U.S. and asked me why I was coming to the U.S. was something I'd never experienced before. On the pleasant side of the border, when I returned to Canada, the border agent said, "welcome home."
- Winter - though it was a mild winter this year, it got real cold for a few days -24C with the wind chill. I actually thought I could go out and skate one morning when it was -18C out, but I realized halfway to the outdoor rink that it wasn't probably the best idea.
- Two books written - this first year has seen me author two books on immigration to Canada, of which I am very proud. The first, How To Immigrate To Canada For Skilled Workers: The Authoritative Guide To Federal And Provincial Opportunities is doing great and helping a lot of people and I hope the new one on Family Class immigration will do the same.
- Summer - I have fared pretty well with the heat and humidity. Much better than I thought I would actually.
The downsides? I sincerely miss my family in the U.S. I increasingly feel out of touch with the Old Country (as I half-jokingly call it). When I spoke to my brother last weekend, he told me it was Seafair in Seattle - a wonderful annual celebration with city and town fairs and festivals (our neighbourhood one was "Jubilee Days") and a weekend of hydroplane races. My brother and I would often ride our motorcycles out to a number of events, and musician friends of mine perform in shows. This is the first year of my life I've missed it. And I honestly forgot all about it until he mentioned it - and then I missed it a lot. Yes, there's an emotional toll to immigration too. I'm learning not to underestimate it, or deny my feelings about it.
So here I am, a year in Canada under my belt. The bottom line question you probably want answered is, "Was it worth it? Are you happy you did it?" The answer is absolutely, YES. I love my new home and my life with my Love. And despite the challenges we have faced and ones to come, I feel in my heart that this is where I am meant to be, where I was always meant to be. I have a lot of peace in that, and a lot of happiness too.