Sadhana Singh
Rebel, Bollywood fanatic, gentle warrior, firecracker

Cover illustration for "The Future is Untraditional".

For the first time in my life, I actually feel happy. I don’t think I really knew what it felt like until now. I realized that all the mental exhaustion from constantly thinking about my status, the anxiety about the future, was starting to dissipate. And I basically said to myself, I don’t ever wanna go back to that again. Now I’m gonna do me.

I have this new mantra of prioritizing myself, prioritizing my mental health, and going after goals that are just for me. One of those goals is traveling the world. My husband was so tired of hearing me talk endlessly about how much I want to travel. One day he said, Okay, make a list of the top ten places you want to go and let’s start working on how to get there.

Sadhana's Quote: “I have this new mantra of prioritizing myself, prioritizing my mental health, and going after goals that are just for me.”

This summer, we went to Mexico for the first time. The humidity made my curls perfect and I was speaking to everyone in my broken Spanish. I was saying: Good morning! Good evening! I was really an eager beaver and it reminded me of getting to college after I got TheDream.US scholarship. Just this feeling of, it took me so long to get here, I’m going to be the most enthusiastic tourist ever.

Illustration of a world map with push pins marking various places.

I had a very late start in life. I got to college at 28. So it’s almost like I was 18 years old in my head, but I was 28 physically. In that sense, I’m still feeling the impacts of my undocumented status because I was so delayed on my developmental trajectory.

I know I want kids in the future but I just don’t know when or how I’m going to make that happen with what I’m feeling right now. I just want to savor this new happiness and security as much as possible while I still can.

Four years ago when I gave my TEDx talk, I basically made a plea to the government. Like, I’m waiting for you to do something to help break me out of this, to give me salvation. And then just a year later I said, screw this, I’m done waiting. I’m going to find my own salvation. I decided to take my life into my own hands by choosing to come to Canada. I often say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, to give up on the American dream.

And yet, I still get angry on behalf of all of the DACA recipients and undocumented people who are stuck waiting, still in limbo, because it’s hard to continue living your life that way when there’s no end in sight. I know, I’ve lived through it. It really messed me up mentally.

Sadhana's Quote: “I'm unlearning all these toxic things about how I used to live, how I used to make decisions.”

I had a lot of depression and anxiety when I came to Canada. Through the help of doctors here and medication, I’m now largely out of that phase, but I used to feel scared that I wouldn’t be up to the job of parenting given my mental health. I thought, I can barely take care of myself. How am I going to take care of my future child?

Illustration of Sadhana leading younger version of Sadhana.

I have very fond memories of life in Guyana. My family was part of the Indian community there and we celebrated all the holidays together. But once we got to Georgia, we stopped doing those things. We never took vacations, we stopped celebrating birthdays. It made me sad, but it wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized, I have a new family now and I get to start my own traditions. We went to a Christmas play last year and I booked another one this year thinking, what if we make it a tradition? What if we eventually take our kids to our yearly Christmas play? Basically, I want to take control of the things I’ve felt lacking in. I want to create them for myself.

In Georgia, my escape was movies. I didn’t have an undocumented community—it was just my brother and I. The two of us would watch everything. All languages, all genres. From Bollywood to the Lord of the Rings. We became those experts who could spew director and actor names. And that’s how we saw the world. That’s how we saw how life was being lived. It was good as a coping mechanism, but at the same time, it was such a glaring reminder that you’re in the land of opportunity, but all of the things you want are out of reach. Now whenever I watch movies set in other countries, I put Google pins into places I want to visit. I never did that before because it was like, why bother?

I was the first person in my family to go to college. My life became so different from what they knew, I couldn’t even find the language to explain what I was experiencing. And then after a while I stopped mentioning it. They would just ask me if I was healthy, if I was taking my vitamins, things like that, but I never got to share this other part of myself with them. It was hard, watching that distance between us grow.

In college I pushed myself to be an honor student, straight A’s, Phi Beta Kappa, all of that. And then I realized wow, you really wore yourself out. I’m unlearning all these toxic things about how I used to live, how I used to make decisions. I’m secure now so I don’t have to think that way anymore, but I still do sometimes because it’s been so conditioned in me. And that’s why I journal a lot. I try to do therapy too, but often make the appointments and then cancel them. I know why. It’s because it’s very exhausting to talk about it. It takes so much out of me.

Sadhana's Quote: “I know I want kids in the future but I just don’t know when or how I’m going to make that happen with what I’m feeling right now.”

There’s this psychological exercise of imagining your younger self and giving them a hug. I try to envision my younger self in the house in Georgia crying in the corner of my room, frustrated about my status, my lack of movement. I spent over ten years in that house and I was like a ghost. I was existing but not really fulfilled, not really living. I was just going to work every day and coming back home. I had no social life, no weekend plans. I couldn’t drive because I didn’t have a license. And so I imagine that person, that younger Sadhana, and I go in and hug her. Then, I lead her out of the house and tell her, Hey, you will get out of this. You will go someplace else, I promise.

About the Storyteller: Born in Guyana, raised in Georgia, and now living in Toronto, Sadhana was a participant in our Life Outside the U.S. storytelling project. She is Senior Communications Manager at TheDream.US. Learn more about her work here.

Read more stories from The Future is Undocumented series.

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