Well, I was born in the United States and so I have an American passport. But sometimes I feel like that’s where it ends. I didn’t vote for the man the Americans put into the White House and will never consider him to be anything more than the same thief who I read about in the NY Times throughout my childhood. I easily travel to the States anytime I want, not needing the visa that all of my fellow Mexicans are required to have in order to go to the United States…so I guess I’m also that type of an American.
But what about what I have to be grateful of from the States? I grew up in NYC…what I believe to be the melting pot of my country. I learned about how my family entered the country during the last 100 years…even my mother, who was also foreign born…by boat or ships from Italy. I learned about the importance of hard work and the pride one possesses as a result of it along with how great it is to owe no one anything. I learned about how nothing is due to me…how if I want something, I have to work for it in order to feel as though I even deserve it.
I spent the majority of my life in school…having gone to high school, college and obtained my Masters degree only 10 years ago. I also have continued to learn new skills. With the world being changed as much as it has, even since I graduated from college over 20 years ago, due to the technology that has been invented since, my generation certainly has to keep adapting to the new changing world we are now living in.
Though I have to say, around the time when I obtained my masters degree, it was the first time I had been able to take my head out of my books…out of my life…out of the drama…in order to take a look around at what had happened to the world I came from.
I had grown up in a blue collar neighborhood in Brooklyn where it was very hard to find a native English speaker. Everyone was from Italy and everyone spoke Italian. Then while I was in my 20’s…everyone disappeared (we don’t have to rehash how most of the Italians I grew up with ended up either in jail or in NJ…me always wondering which was worse)…but regardless, the world I came from was no more. I had moved into Manhattan where I worked full time and went to school at night and studied most weekends with enough friends that, if I was ever bored, I had plenty of social engagements to continue to keep me busy.
But then, there I was, 10 years ago…looking at my fellow Americans who seemed to have each grown a huge chip on their shoulders…talking crap against immigrants. WHAT?!?! I’m sorry…where are my fellow immigrant families that I had grown up with? Where had they wound up? Who were these people surrounding me? What f’in right did they have to say anything against an immigrant? They didn’t sail here on the May Flower! And they were not Native American!!! Was I losing my mind? What didn’t I get?
I tried to defend Immigrants…in general…saying how my family came to the States from Italy…on a boat…as immigrants…and how each of them tried their hardest to learn English (not an easy task to accomplish as an adult who only has the means to work in a factory surrounded by other Italians who also didn’t speak English)…but eventually, those who could, became American citizens. Those who died while trying…well they would have had they been given the chance!
Meanwhile…my own head was spinning. I suddenly felt as though I no longer had anything in common with my “fellow American”…I felt as though no one could understand or remember where we all actually came from. I had recently lost my mother to Cancer which just pissed me off so much…ALL THE TIME! The voices in my head were screaming! I had been a good American…stood for the National Anthem…appreciated the equality I fought for with men and as someone from Brooklyn while competing for jobs and positions in Manhattan against Ivy League graduates who may have had the academics but severely lacked the common sense and resourcefulness I was taught on the streets of Brooklyn. I appreciated the activities I had taken part of while being a NYer as I roamed the streets in search of the next hot restaurant, night club, bar or museum, where I might make the acquaintance of someone else who I could add to my ever growing circle of friends.
Then, I discovered SCUBA diving. Wow! Ever been diving?!?! It was like the voices were silenced for the first time in my life. Holy crap! I need to get me more of that! Ok, let’s sit down and figure this out. The first year, I went on 6 dive trips…expensive! Plus equipment! OMG! Then each time I returned from another week to 10 days diving on another remote island floating in the Caribbean…the voices would start again. And now, no one understood me! No one could understand how I had just found this crazy passion that took me off the crazy streets of NYC…out of the pin-striped suits and off the four inch heels I wore everyday…to put me into cut offs and tank tops.
“What do you mean you’re walking away from EVERYTHING?!?!”
Let me tell you something else Brooklyn taught me as a child…to never be afraid of anything! I have this crazy knack to talk my way out of every situation and experience I’ve come across. And if you think that growing up in NYC before Guiliani was mayor was tough (who wants to talk to me about corruption?!?!)…then you should see some of the experiences I’ve had since I moved here over 7 years ago. I meet people who “can’t feel” certain places and people and experiences (and don’t feel bad that I’m using you as an example, cuz!)…but I have to say that even when I moved to this foreign country where I maybe knew 1 person…I never “couldn’t feel” my next day…or dive…or trip to the port to board that boat owned by men who I had met once to take me down to 250 feet in some of the most amazingly clear and beautiful waters that I have ever seen to see some of the most amazing sea life anyone has ever seen in their lives, while in their environment, not mine.
So what kind of an American am I? I’m the kind of American who doesn’t wear her flag on her shoulder as a reason for why people should be “easy” on me as I stumble through another conversation in Spanish…I don’t say, well it’s ok that I’m lost or driving down a street in the wrong direction because I’m an American (so dumb to the reality of the world). I’m not the type of American who even wants to be known here as being an American! (My complexion and light hair cause most people here to assume I’m German…I just let them.) And why is that? Because the only kind of American I am…is the kind that was only born there. And that’s where it ends. Otherwise, I’m just a person who lives in a foreign country, applying for my dual citizenship in November because I’ve earned that right…and damn proud of it! I’m the kind of American who will probably not even die there…and who knows where that might be…because I am the kind of American who works hard for her living and who is so proud of it…and sorry my paisanos have gotten so lost along the way!
So yes, I’m proud to be an American! But I’m proud to be an American who is able to live somewhere else!