I became an American Citizen on Friday.
That morning I felt so frustrated, so alone and so rushed as I was getting ready for my ceremony. I even had a dream about my first half marathon race in New York. These feelings were similar, 7 years ago I ran my first half marathon in Queens NY, and after I crossed the finish line I walked away with a medal weighing heavy on my heart and felt my heart break with every tear that ran down my cheek.
It was such a big accomplishment, yet I felt so alone. There was no one there to witness this super important event, no one to cheer me on. My naturalization day came with similar feelings, except I invited friends to come, and they came. They responded, they texted and were present before I even I realized that I needed to be the one to invite them.
I gave up my citizenship of Ukraine on Friday. I gave up the country I was born in and grew up in. Today, I realize that for almost 15 years I tried really hard to fit in and be this American, which I wasn’t, be this person I thought an American should be. So who is this american that we all chase trying to become? Is it a dream that drives us as individuals to achieve, because in achieving THE dream we become the evidence of what this country is built on?
I was brought up valuing community; the people around you – they mean everything and share everything with you. The pain, the joy, the sorrow and the bliss. Everyone knows everything and you don’t mind one bit doing life with people all up in your business. Ukrainians value community, it’s not spoken of, but you know it when you go to a friends house for a baby shower and leave 9 hours later or when you have people show up at your house within hours notice, or no notice at all, and you all sit around the dinner table drinking tea until it’s 1:30 am and you can’t be late to work anymore, so they go home. I married an American and I had to learn this new way of doing community.
The American dream is about each individual achieveihg their dream life. Today I gave citizenship of the country I grew up in and I know in my soul that for me, being an American means to take the old and the new into the same melting pot and live from the lessons of the past. I didn’t have anyone come to cheer me on my first race because I didn’t ask, I felt alone because I didn’t let anyone in. Maybe I just needed a break from everyone knowing my business like when I grew up, but I am so thankful for the reminder to reach out, to ask, to let others know what goes on with me and invite them into my life.
Perhaps later I can share with you more about what my American Dream is, but for now, I hope to make you appreciate your country, your origin, your ethnicity and your nationality. Be proud of where you come from and proud of where you are going. I hope to inspire you to think of what your dream is and take the reroute if your dreams have taken the back burner spot. Detours in life happen, but you can always turn around.
I feel blessed to have friends who either showed up, or responded to my invitation to come witness my swearing in ceremony. I feel freedom. I think that I will continue to experience freedom and learn its meaning in many new ways in the years to come, and very soon as I am rushing to get a passport for our first trip out of the country as all american citizen. As my country of birth has been at war and without peace for a some years now, I have peace, knowing that no new law or regulation or mistake can make me leave a place I know and now call home and the many people I now call family.
I will take lessons from both countries. I will be the dream chaser like a true American inspiration. I will be a gentle soul and a true friend or the community like my parents taught me to be, and I will do my best to inspire you to hug your close ones tight, be present in their life and get all up in each other’s business because that’s what makes us not alone, but a community.
P.S. here are some fun things that happened during the ceremony. The whole thing took about two hours, and if you have a baby, you know they will be hungry and need a nap and a diaper change within that kind of time frame. So I sat there, then nursed my baby without a nursing cover of my nursing friendly shirt, I rocked my baby gently to sleep for a 30 minute nap and he woke up just as my husband got there. That way I didn’t hold him in my arms as I went to get the official papers. And my friend who came with her baby got to experience the same thing and some baby talking on top of everything. We ran into a couple of people we knew in the court room and it was a memorable day as I shared this experience with 66 individuals from 47 countries. Also, I had to surrender my green card, which was my travel ticket for so long!
p.s.s. What’s your naturalization story?