The immigration lawyer’s office in downtown Boston is the hottest room I have ever been in.
I am sweating as I am trying to catch my breath, feeling like I just went on a run. My palms are leaving sweat marks on the lawyer’s wooden, lacquered table. “Stop touching it,” my mama mouths at me with her teeth clenched together, making the funny face all mothers make when they are angry. Only this time I couldn’t bring myself to grin back. I was too fixated on analyzing the lawyer’s face to see if he was about to give us good or bad news. Have our efforts paid off? Are we going to be able to work different jobs soon? Drive? Am I going to be able to go to college? Would it be easier to just go back? As my mind is racing with all the bad responses he could give us, I can tell everyone else is feeling the same; my father hasn’t stopped sighing since we sat down on these chairs. My mother’s face has turned so pale it almost looks gray. My little sister, who has just turned 12, hasn’t really understood what’s going on or why we are here. But she sees us and I know she assumes.
“I don’t think I can really help you anymore. Maybe you should consider other options, or even return to Greece.”
I felt the temperature drop drastically. A fifty-second pause that felt like an hour followed his statement. My parents immediately looked so disappointed, almost as if the word “defeated” was written in huge letters with a thick black sharpie across their foreheads. My sister, who at the time did not understand English, but picked up the words “Greece” and “return,” looked at me scared. I know it’s not the lawyer’s fault but I was so frustrated that I just had to blame someone. How could this person just drop us like that?
An average lawyer’s mind would straight away start trying to come up with resolutions as to how to fix the situation. Ours immediately gave up.
Did this really have to happen now? Right before I have to go to college? I mean, it would have been the same outcome if it happened earlier, but now? Now I know for sure it will be almost impossible for me to attend. You can go to college even if you are not a confirmed U.S. resident, obviously. But you don’t get any financial aid and you will have to pay almost double the amount. As ridiculously expensive as college is for Americans already, for me it was absurd. I am pretty sure I remember almost laughing when receiving my acceptance letter emails and reading the tuition price. My parents didn’t have time to celebrate my getting accepted into every college and university I applied to because they were left shocked, just like me. If the tuition for U.S. residents was around $40K, for me it was $80K.
To give you a little background information, my mom is a famous published author back home, but in America, she works behind a register. My father has a Ph.D. in economics, but in America works at a pantry, selling cheese. Needless to say, no job is shameful or embarrassing, but the only time my parents would ever see $80K is in their dreams.
Not going to college was never an option for my family because in our culture not attending college is viewed as equal to not attending middle school. We had a short list of options: community college? Can’t, the tuition price would still be higher for me. Sending me back to Greece alone to go to college for free, even though we wouldn’t be able to see each other again until the immigration issues were settled? Can’t, our house burned down shortly after that idea was proposed by my mother. Okay, well maybe not a short list of options, more like two options that were quickly eliminated.
Thankfully, I was and I am surrounded by a group of very supportive, loving people: my high school teachers dedicated so much time to helping me build my resume and send it out to private scholarship organizations, while also helping me balance my two jobs and schoolwork, so I can still finish high school with good/decent grades. My parents were there cheering me along the way, making sure I never let myself get discouraged and give up.
Before having to go through this, my mindset was very different. I thought life can only be either black or white (meaning either yes or no, no ways in between). You either had it easy, or you didn’t bother to do it at all. I learned that there are always alternatives if you look hard enough, there are ways that you can achieve your goal even if it seems impossible. It seemed impossible to me, too — but I made it.
I hope I can inspire other people that feel like they are in a dead end. I am starting my studies in September and have already registered for classes. I will forever be grateful for my high school teachers and parents, and for myself as well. Because if I wasn’t so “obsessive’’ and “annoying” about things, I wouldn’t have pushed through.