Panic. It is all consuming, takes over your mind and body. Leaves you paralyzed. It can last for a minute that feels like an eternity. If you are lucky, you will feel a detachment, an out-of-body experience. Your soul will float above your body, looking at the scene below unfold and your brain will struggle to comprehend the situation.
It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn – Paulo Coelho
Women’s March 2017
The meeting was done, they had said what they wanted to say. My employment was to be terminated on Wednesday, I was to mail all the equipment to them by the next day. Their reason, at least verbally, was that the their work requires a security clearance. I had worked for them for over two and a half years without one but now it was an issue. I explained I could get a clearance if I had a green card – enough clearance to continue working on the product I had already been privy to for over two and a half years. Apparently, the big boss did not want to sponsor a green card. If you are not very familiar with the work visa process, you’re probably wondering why I was reacting so strongly to being laid off. Read on to find out.
At this time, I did not know how long I was legally allowed to remain in the country once my employment had been terminated. My visa and stay in the country entirely depends on my employment. Being laid off wasn’t the problem, it was the complete lack of notice. I was given two days notice. Two days! I had worked there for over two years, I was the eighth employee hired and they were cutting me off with two days notice while I wasn’t even in the city.
P completely understood the predicament I was in but they didn’t care. My HR rep’s exact words “I understand you have to now leave the country. We will pay for your return ticket. According to my sources, you may have to leave by the end of the week”. I remember these words, they are etched in my brain forever. They knew what they were doing. Making me uproot my entire life, four years of life in five days with two days of notice. Of course, they are not legally required to give me any notice. It is called moral courtesy. It would cost them a mere $2000 to give me two weeks notice, which they had to end up paying anyway.
I called my lawyer, I was told I had 60 days before I would have to leave. It calmed me down greatly. Losing a job is hard but losing my status is terrifying. The talk with my lawyer had calmed me down enough to be able to think. I had accrued 10 days of paid time off that they were legally required to give me. I called my HR back, told her I wanted to take my vacation time off and I gave myself an additional 12 days. I also couldn’t burn any bridges, I had to be polite. I might need them for reference. They guaranteed I would get glowing references from any of my coworkers should I need it.
The worst day of my life. I was sure I would have to leave but I couldn’t let it get to me. I had to bunker down and get to work. I pulled all the favors, reached out to my entire network. It was a time full of fear and dread. It was hard work, October is not a hiring period. It is the beginning of holiday season. After 45 days of hard work and a giant hole in any savings I might have had, I was able to find a new job. I don’t steal jobs, I am good at what I do. I work hard to gain the skills and I work hard to prove my worth.
For the time, I could continue to stay. Here’s the thing about most immigrants – our lives are in constant flux, constant reliability on external factors, constant panic and constant fear. We are exploited, are not entitled to any rights, ridiculed at and treated like subpar human beings and yet we are here. Has any one ever bothered to stop and think why that might be? The worlds we come from are so devoid of the things we desire in our soul that these exploitations seem like a price we can bear.
I could have just returned to India. What life would I be returning to? A life I have forgotten to live. In America, I have my freedom, independence, opportunities I would never have back home, relationships and friendships; my life is here now. I love my country and there are over a billion people living there but I have forgotten how to live there. I have set my roots here, I have established my identity and my world here.
Personally, I come from a country I could potentially return to. What about others who can never go back? Who have come here to seek asylum from the horrors of war and terrorism? Who are escaping a past so terrible, uprooting their lives was the only choice? Why should we be threatened by them? We should open our arms and help each other out as much as we can. We are all born as one, borders are manmade lines. If immigrants threaten you, then please do some research. Why do you think they threaten your way of life? Don’t let yourself be swayed by hate speech. Learn for yourself, expand your horizons on your own, talk to the immigrants about their life, don’t make assumptions. At the end of the day, if you think about it, we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants.