Becoming American — Reflections on my journey to becoming the naturalized U.S. citizen I am today

Sherry-Lynn Lee
19 min readMay 22, 2023

Immigration is so common it might seem banal, but it profoundly changes you as a person. It changes your identity, how you relate to your new home, and your old one.

After witnessing the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, the pandemic, the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, and the national reckoning and protests following George Floyd’s murder, I became a U.S. citizen. I started 2021 as a Sino-Mauritian-Canadian and ended it with “American” added to the mix. I’ve since been unpacking what this means and how it changes who I am and who I become. Over the last few years, I found myself examining how living in Mauritius, Toronto, then California, have shaped the American woman I’m becoming today.

Signs read “Immigrants make America Great”, “No hate, no fear. Refugees are welcome here”, “Proud Immigrant”

Excuse me, I didn’t order an American dream.

If ten years ago, you had told me that I would be an American citizen in today, I would probably have scoffed at the idea. Although less enthused by every subsequent Torontonian winter, I was perfectly content with my free, universal healthcare, very decent public transit, and downtown life with my brother. I had relatives nearby, a pretty good network in music and tech, and felt I had great career options right where I was. I gave the American dream as much thought as I would a search for treasure hidden by pirates: none.

In 2012, I graduated and soon landed a job at a startup called Locationary. The team was small, had a nice, low-key office space downtown Toronto, and offered me an interesting machine learning/engineering job. I was ecstatic. Little did I know that this first job would completely change my life.

Less than a year later, I was touring the Apple campus in Silicon Valley with the rest of the team, trying to picture ourselves living and working in California. Coming from Mauritius, the year-round sunshine was not a hard sell for me. For the first time, I considered what it would be like to move to the U.S., at least for a while.

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Sometimes you can’t picture your dreams until…

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Sherry-Lynn Lee

LA-based writer, artist, producer who used to be a Silicon Valley engineer. Mauritian, Canadian. Hosts award-nominated Nuances Podcast. https://nuancespod.com