Words by Zahra M. D.
Photograph by Mansoor M.
A travel enthusiast on a quest to find a solution to my fast food addiction.
My passion lies in empowering women & I work towards achieving that dream everyday.
Most of what I am writing today is in retrospect of my experiences as a newlywed moving to a new country. Like always, I wish I knew then what I know now.
A year and a half ago, I married the man I met and fell in love with over Skype. It was a magical week of laughter, love and celebrations and looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Soon after the wedding, I found myself amidst loved ones sobbing and completely distraught as it was time for me to move on to my new “home”. Moving to Canada all the way from Singapore was a lot more bittersweet than expected. Bitter because the realization of how much my parents and friends meant to me and sweet because I would finally get to live with the person I married and not just someone I have had a virtual relationship with on Skype.
For me, the reality of marriage, the responsibilities it brought and adjusting to life with another person was a lot harder than I had imagined. It slowly dawned on me what my mother always told me, “there is a big difference in the man you “date” versus the man you marry.” Before marriage, I could not comprehend the gravity of those words, but today I completely understand why she said that. It took me some time to understand and accept that my husband was no prince charming but just an average Joe – and that I was no princess, just an average girl!
For the girls in our community, we are groomed from a young age to accept that this isn’t our home and that only our husband’s home is our “real” home. One ear in, one ear out – that’s how I usually reacted to this as a teenager but now after moving to a new country (halfway across the world), with a brand new family and with a man who I knew for less than 2 years, it all suddenly seemed like a very daunting task. I was excited nonetheless. There is always some thrill in the unknown.
Soon as I was married, my mother-in-law encouraged me to step out of the house more and pick up courses such as driving and volunteering to help me adjust to the Canadian way of things. I started to feel a lot more at peace with myself as I found my own independence in moving around and not having to depend on my husband or in-laws to chauffer me around. Learning how to drive gave me access to a brand new world which I would have never been able to explore independently. To familiarize myself with the roads better, I made sure not to rely on my GPS to navigate my way around the neighborhood. Something I looked forward to everyday was to pick up the Faizul-Mawaidal Burhaniyah (FMB) thaali’s from the depot.
I began volunteering at a women’s shelter not long after to get myself assimilated into the Canadian society. I realize today that had I not been volunteering, I would not have been exposed to the working culture in Canada (which happens to be very different from Singapore, mind you) and would not have been able to adjust well in a job that came my way some time later. Looking back at my journey so far, I am incredibly grateful for my in-laws as they are the reason for my independence and assimilation here. They gave me the foundation I needed to make a life for myself in Canada.
There was a point during my transition where I felt I cannot love or accept any new experiences as it would be a betrayal to the 24 years of my life in Singapore. But today, I see Canada as home; I love it more than I ever thought I would. I am grateful for allowing myself to embrace the new life experiences making the most of it. I still find myself indulging in Murtabaks and Nasi Lemaks whenever I come across a Singaporean stall, but I can’t do without Steaks and Poutine either.
We naturally form expectations of how our ‘new life’ should be but I would suggest keeping your expectations minimal in order to avoid disappointments – be it with yourself, your husband or your in-laws. There will be a lot of challenges and different personalities to navigate around (and no GPS in the world helps with that J ) but it becomes easier when we accept everyone for who they are. It is a tough boat to be on but only as tough as you let it become.
Marriage was the best thing that happened to me as it taught me a lot about compromise, boundaries and acceptance. Marriages are a work in progress and the “happily ever after” we often see in movies do come true but only after some time.
“All too often people concentrate on finding the right spouse, little realizing that half of any marriage is being the right spouse.”