4th of July. For 10 years-ish of my life, this day meant pool parties, picnics, BBQ, day-eating/drinking, and then fireworks in the evening. For the past 10 years, however, I have spent most of America’s birthday abroad: France (’05), London (’07 & ’11), Cameroon (’08, ’09 & ’10) and now Shanghai!
I am not even an American by birth. I only became a holder of that coveted navy blue passport in 2005 (and only because I was traveling that summer and it’s easier with a US passport). But now, as I globe trot around the world, I always answer the question, “where are you from?” with a proud “USA”. I find myself to be much more patriotic while I am abroad. I find that it’s easy to overlook the positive aspects of America as a country while you are living in it. It’s human nature to pinpoint at all the deficiencies and find focus on aspects of a place that are less than satisfactory.
As I travel and meet people from around the world, I count my blessings at the privilege to be an American. Words can’t describe how fortunate I am to be a citizen of a country that allows so much freedom and opportunities. It’s incredible to be from a country where so many race, religion, and people of origins can (relatively) co-exist in harmony.
Despite various criticisms, this is a country that afforded me the opportunity to pursue higher education when my family didn’t have the means to provide. This is a country that gives a young person the flexibility to change her mind from studying music to studying economics without any negative consequences. A country that provide its citizens the opportunity to travel to many places in the world without cumbersome paperwork.
I am grateful for my adopted country, and for its kindness to take in my immigrant family without judgement and to give us the chance at the American Dream. My gratitude for my adopted country is at its highest this year, as I celebrated its birthday from Shanghai. I’ve used this occasion to reflect upon my life, and to wonder how different it would’ve been without that opportunity to be an American.
More than ever, I wanted to celebrate and honor this privilege. Being in Shanghai, there are plenty of Americans around and hence lots of festivities for the holiday. My friends and I went to The Apartment, where there were 2 for 1 hamburgers all day and drink specials. As the crowd gathered in the evening, I began to feel more like I was in NYC than in Shanghai. The hip-hop/R&B room were filled with fellow Americans who just wanted a piece of home. When Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind came on, everyone went a little crazy, especially anyone who had spent any time at all in New York. Within the time span of a song, I met several fellow former New York dwellers: a few Brooklynites & a few fellow UWSers (Upper West Side). This song really has some sort of magic power to unite perfect strangers.
The globetrotting ways often made me feel unsure of where I actually fit in, but in some ways, being an American encompasses all of my different identities. After all, the US is the biggest melting pot in the world, is it not?