They ask me what I’m writing for… I’m writing to show you what we fighting for. Being outside of the great 50 states has me feeling more American than ever this new year. So forgive me if this comes off like an Uncle Sam (or UncleTom) commercial during the broadcast of the ball drop… but you’re already reading… so you’re stuck:
Ask me what I do and I’ll have to say, ‘I have decided NOT to live the American dream, but to participate in a process that permits others to do so.’ I feel most American when I’m not actually in America. I serve my country by living outside of it, acting as a representative of America, helping to decide who can and cannot come to America – How truly un American.
How does one define un American? I’m not sure exactly, but its something like living as if you’re always wearing a brand new pair of shoes. They look nice. Shhheeeeeittttt, you look great! But you’re uncomfortable, despite your intentions to fight the feeling. It’s an unsettling that can grow to the point of being prohibitive. That’s the majority of my adult days in the 48 contiguous. And it’s not something I fully grasped until now. I’m learning that I’m not alone in this sentiment, but most like me have already made their exodus. When joined with these atypical Americans in far flung places, I realize that this roving lifestyle is where I feel safest in my own skin, unapologetically sure of who I am and what I am not – normal, that is.
I am not your average American. And, let me say, your average American expat is certifiably cooler than your average American townie, hands down. Don’t debate with me on this, I’ve thought it through. We might have a few more loose screws and a more liberal policy on the use of controlled substances, but we are the adventurous types. We don’t fear planes. We don’t think home is a house. We can’t answer ‘where are you from?’ with a straight face. We’re used to being lied to. We don’t live in a bubble. We spend our money liberally. We live like today is tomorrow and yesterday didn’t happen, because we’re always jet lagged, we don’t have a sense of time, and the possibilities are endless.
Enough about us, more about you. Americans, I’ve learned, often underestimate the power & privilege of their passports – even when they don’t have one. Just by virtue of being American there are many of life’s trials that you don’t experience. Sewers exist. Safe drinking water pipes into your house. Streets are passable. You have public transportation and welfare for goodness sakes! Despite the inequities and disparities, America presents the most opportunities for its populace – above and beyond anywhere else I’ve ever visited or lived. And frankly, our rich don’t do rich like other people do rich. I mean – the other day, I wanted to ask this lady if a diamond mine exploded over her entire life. We don’t bling like Indians bling. We don’t trick out cars like Southern Spaniards trick out cars. We don’t do palaces like Middle Easterns do palaces. Sometimes we have an inflated sense of self, but most of what we lack is perspective.
I wish it was on sale at Walmart for New Years, because then everybody would be able to get some. I know this is the season for turning over a new leaf and believing we are capable of doing things in the new year that we’ve never been capable of in our entire lives. It’s a time to set high hopes and build unrealistic expectations, that still may deliver us to a happier medium than the habits we currently employ. We say we’re going to live in the now and love smarter, live bigger, act better. Well, my resolutions from 5 years ago are pretty simple and they ring true every day. So why change a good thing?
1- STAY AWAY FROM UGLY PEOPLE: Ugly people exist in all shapes, forms and stripes, but what they have in common is that they permit themselves to behave badly because they’d rather not address the fact that they’re spiritually vacant. I can’t be around these people because that isht is contagious and their company is a poor reflection on me.
2- BUILD THAT BEACH CHAIR: Jay-Z ain’t never lied
3- USE THE PRESENT TO LIVE PURPOSEFULLY: Barnard women are always ’bout that work. As my fellow alumna wrote, ‘Do yourself a favor, instead of being sorry, just enjoy being yourself.’ These words are applicable outside of the context in which they were originally delivered. Doing & being better begins with simply being honest about what that means and having the back bone to live it out, unapologetically.
Here, there and everywhere I’ve seen how not living in my own skin has resulted in a dream deferred. And while I was perfectly fine reading revolutionary Cape Verdean writers in soul food restaurants in DC, and dancing to Zouk at clubs near Grand Central Station, I’m thankful to ring in the New Year in the reality that I’m reading contemporary New England writers while eating Chinese food in Thai restaurants, and listening to young American rappers while shopping in Indian boutiques. I’ve learned to be ok with not being normal. At this point, I’m pretty convinced that diversity actually lives on the tips of my eyelashes, and every time I blink I send a little bit more out into the world – for the taking. That’s my truth.
Perhaps I’m resolved to unapologetically live without borders and to be the center of my own universe, because it just feels so good. I wish I could box it up, sell it on the black market and send the surplus wrapped in gold leaf to my friends, family & frienemies. I make no secret of the fact that this time last year, I didn’t think I’d make it to this day. So in this day and every day forward, I feel obliged to live my truth; I accept that God makes no mistakes, coincidences don’t exist, and I got work and atoning to do. Now that I am able to step back, oceans away from my abnormal norm, I realize that happiness is like a new pair of retro Jordans in Atlanta – in short supply and in high demand. “And no one’s takin’ mine…”
I’ve chosen to live on the other side of the world, and that – my friends – has taught me a thing or two about living purposefully happy. In general, I don’t advise skipping town and country, but at some point you have to stop expecting a different result from the same situation. It’s time to get some perspective.
I’m not too sure how you plan to get your happy/ healthy fix this new year, this new month, this new day. But, I do wish you well on your journey to finding it and living it; and I am at your disposal to assist in whatever way I can to help you take steps forward. My progress is yours and yours mine… we’re worlds apart, but ultimately in this together. And while we are truly beautiful just as we are today, we are too privileged for mediocrity of any hue.
I just returned from spending 4 months in Europe and I must agree that I’ve never felt more American than I did during that time. Being abroad instilled in me a deep appreciation for my command of my own language and made me realize just how far-reaching American culture really is. While I now know being a permanent expat is not for me, being a temporary one truly changed my life and renewed my spirit. I think there is so much to be learned from forcing yourself outside of your bubble, whether that means travelling to another continent or venturing to another part of your town, and I would hope that more people can gather up the courage to do so.
Happy new year, dear! 🙂
Wow your words are like a big bowl of Alphabet cereal on saturday morning entertaining and always full of flavor. Keep writing windows to a new reality and i’ll keep reading. Like Jay said “Thats good business”
I remember living abroad for a little less than 2 months. At the time George W. was in office and people would always ask me about him or criticize him. I felt a bit defensive and in not so many words asked these people to back off. It wasn’t that I completely supported the guy but its kind of like my family. You can’t talk sideways about my brother, even if what you are saying is completely valid.
P.S. Can’t wait to read next weeks blog post.
I am enjoying reading your blog so much!! I loved your 5 resolutions and your statement that you are “unapologetically living without borders”. That is exactly how I feel when people ask me, “why would you move to India”? After all it is my choice and my life, right?
Thanks for the support. I’m sure you have some opinions of your own — please feel free to share here. I find myself saying “Incredible India,” so much now.
great read! “stop expecting a different result from the same situation,” applies to so many things!