Hello Michigan!

This is my 8th day in Michigan. I had one full day at home after coming back from Mexico City before I hopped on another plane and headed out on a long day of travel… again. And I landed here! In Michigan. In January. In an office that’s being liquidated. Wee! I have never appreciated living in a large city with options and public transportation more than I do right now.

Here are some notables about my time here:

  • I’ve never spent this much time away from Kamel since… before March 2010. And though I know this fact, and miss him, it surprises me how not a big deal it is. I spent the majority of all my relationships before I got married (which includes my early relationship with Kamel) in long distance situations, and there was always a certain amount of anxiety that went into those experiences. Obviously those relationships didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, but it gives me even more confidence in what Kamel and I have that we can be away from each other, with a 3 hour time difference (super inconvenient!), and have pretty much zero stress involved. It’s incredibly liberating to not be preoccupied thinking about what he’s up to, if he’s going to call, when I’ll be able to talk to him next, or feel like I have to run out of the room when I see my phone blow up.
  • This is also the first time that I’ve stayed by myself in a hotel. Most of the time when I’ve traveled alone I always end up visiting people I know, and when I went to Paris alone I stayed in a hostel room with 5 other people. Very college dorm inspired. At the moment I’m very much living out of a hotel room. (Complete with my Target bag collection, filled with non-perishable meal essentials. Gla-mour.) Staying in a hotel while you’re on vacation is one thing, but living out of your hotel and needing to wake up by an alarm and shower and dress and high tail it to the office is an entirely different situation. It’s a little bit isolating and a whole lot of inconvenient. Inconvenient is the subtitle of my life right now.
  • But! I’m pretty stoked to be flexing my independent muscles to start of 2012. Being on my own (when I’m almost never on my own) reminds me how truly resourceful I am, how much I don’t need to rely on someone else to get ish done, and how I kind of rule. You can forget what it’s like to think 100% for yourself and own your decisions 100% when you share so much of your life with someone else (who also thinks and makes decisions). As much as I adore Kamel, I don’t want to ever need him so much I can’t do without him.

And the ultimate  good news is that I’m super enjoying my new job so far. If I hated it that would have been unfortunate, but would not have changed my mind on heading back into the 9-5. The corporate world has its ups and downs, but I’m on a path to grow and expand my career, and climb the ladder to more and more opportunities that fit with my Ultimate Plan For Awesomeness. My eye’s on the prize.

Last Day in 2011

My last day in 2011 started in Mexico City, eating pozole with cousins and aunties in a restaurant named “Tony’s Place” if translated into english. It was delicious.

The rest of the day was spent sweating, running through airports, sleeping on planes, repeating to myself (in my head), “Land land land land, get to the ground get to the ground,” playing electronic monopoly, silently panicking that I couldn’t find my passport and then remembering where I had put it just a few minutes before, playing “What Animal Am I Thinking Of in 20 Questions or Less,” waiting and waiting and waiting for luggage, then waiting some more, standing in lines, eating pizza outside Terminal 35, and finally catching a cab home with an hour to spare before 2012 began.

This is a photo Kamel posted on facebook with the caption saying, “The best way to fly. Happy 2012!”

I’m not sure if he meant taking advantage of an empty seat and sleeping for most of the flight, or if he meant that it’s the best while I’m cuddled into him, asleep on his lap. But either way, I like this very much.

This year there were no parties to be had, no champagne to drink, no dressing up or fabulous groups of fabulous friends to ring out the old year and ring in the new. It was just the two of us (just like on Christmas), struggling with luggage and catching cabs, questions at customs and smiling at strangers because yes, it was in fact New Years Eve.

Here’s to new adventures, making mistakes, travel that thrills you, reaching beyond yourself for something fabulous, loving better, and remembering it all deserves some enthusiasm.

The Newlywed Game: Holiday Edition

I mourned Christmas this year.

I cried, I lamented, I pointed fingers at Kamel and said “Yoouuuu are the reaasssonnnn for my MISERY!” Because this was the first year that I didn’t go home.

Some people don’t care about this, some people are foot loose and fancy free, some people don’t do the same thing every year since they were 5, and that’s cool… but my family isn’t like that. I revel in tradition – and not the kind “we make ourselves”, I revel and look forward to the kind that I can depend on, the events I can recite in order with my eyes closed, and spun around 3 times fast. It’s dependable and safe, it’s comforting and it’s where memories are made and remembered.

But now my family has expanded and we’ve broken off a piece of family just for ourselves. And that’s complicated, and that’s what makes all of this not Kamel’s fault. It means I signed up for it, and  that change is inevitable. And often a very, very good thing.

But I cried, and Kamel rubbed my back even when I said it was all his fault, and I flopped around, and Kamel didn’t even get snippy or frustrated, he just let me rant. And I said, “I hate this! I hate this! I’m missing everything!” and I said, “Why are we here? This is stupid! Christmas doesn’t even exist this year! It’s going to come and go and leave me behind!” And I said, “It’s all happening without me, and it doesn’t change anything.”

And then Christmas Eve came with just the two of us and it was nice. I would have rather been home, but what was happening instead wasn’t bad or awful, and it didn’t make me feel lonely. It was nice. And then Christmas came and we called all of our family and it was nice. I still felt connected, I still felt like the things I look forward to every year are still there, and will be there next year when it’s my turn again. That’s the good thing about tradition – it’s dependable, right? Well… until the next life event and then it’s all up in the air again. But I’ll burn that bridge when I cross it. (as Kamel always says… incorrectly. Ahem.)

But mostly this month has taught me a lot about marriage. Because this month was hard, it actually kind of sucked. Kamel was sick and crabby, I was feeling pissed off and inpatient about life, every thing he did seemed pointed and thoughtless, and every thing I did seemed like an over reaction. That lead to me not feeling heard and him feeling picked on. You know this tune. It has different keys but the same melody… or something like that. And it was the holidays, and there were things to be done under a time and money crunch, and there were plans to be made and clothes to be washed and people to be missed. It was the perfect storm of, “what the fuck did I get myself into with this whole marriage crap?” And a huge lesson for me.

Lesson: Compromise doesn’t mean you always get your way.

Hello. This does not seem like a genius realization, but guess what? It kind of is. Because when you think about marriage and compromise I bet 90% of you (and me) go “Oh yeah yeah yeah, we got this! Compromise! That’s old news!” But then the fine print of your brain says, “When I don’t actually mind either way, or when I can convince the other person that the things I want matter the most, or when the outcomes really and truly benefit both of us.” Ah yes, then it’s a piece of cake. Compromise, with a capital C, has nothing to do with agreeing on what movie to watch in theaters. Or what fancy electronic to buy, or what to have for dinner. When we’re talking a capital C, it turns out Compromise can be really really hard.

Sometimes compromise and submitting to the relationship means doing stuff that sucks, that hurts my feelings and makes me cry, that I’ll have to grit my teeth through for the benefit of my partner, it may mean I don’t win, or that I have to let Kamel have his way even when I think his way is stupid. Wow, that sounds super unappealing. Dear all engaged people: Sometimes marriage sucks.

But then after I get done throwing my fit, crying, stomping around waving a giant flag that says, “Fuck you!” … it turns out that my partner is still there, that I did this thing that sucks because I love him and knew that it was the right thing to do all along, and that it really wasn’t all that bad. And I say a little blessing that we have some ability for conflict resolution, that we have some avenue for communication, and that even during the times where I want to smother him to death with his own smugness, I know we’re both in it to win it every single day.

Merry Belated Christmas.

A Better Me

First, let me just get this out of the way: This next year is going to be awesome. It is. I can see it and feel it and everything. And I’m SO EXCITED to have you guys here with me. 2011 was a good and challenging year, but 2012 will be so, so sweet. I have a feeling it will be the year to enjoy all of the hard work and scrambling that was 2011.

That being said, I read something on Verhext about the good fruits and the bad apples (you should check it out, Tamara has an amazing blog). The good fruits are all of the things that help you be the best you, they are the things that you can take from and use to push yourself forward. The bad apples are the things you want to leave behind. Let them die and step forward into the new year without them. They may be things that are holding you back, or struggles you’ve gone through that it’s time to move on from, or people in your life who you know deep down aren’t doing anything to make your life a good place and maybe they need to be set free.

Good Fruits Bad Apples
Moving to a nicer apartment Holding onto anger
Taking a leap forward in my career Being afraid to take risks and holding on for too long
Getting married to an amazing partner Fighting in unproductive ways
Continuing to risk and challenge myself Getting sucked into the wedding vortex and not spending mental energy on enough Adventures
Keeping an awareness of charitable acts Feeling small
Getting a handle on our finances during lean times Forgetting to be enthusiastic at times
Working to support other artists
Keeping in touch with amazing friends

I’ve never been a fan of New Years Resolutions because I feel like I’m setting myself up to fail. Generally the resolutions are too big or something I feel I should be doing, but don’t really want to do. And both of those attributes pretty much guarantee failure. If you want to change your life, start today. Don’t wait until the first, don’t put anything off for any reason.

I do love reflecting on the past to make a better future, though. This year I want to do more things that scare me, more things I’ve said before that I can’t do. I’m sticking my tongue out at myself and saying neener neener. I realized last week that it had been a year since I took surfing lessons. I was shocked!! A whole year? More than a year? You’ve got to be kidding me. I haven’t done something epic in all of that time? (Ok getting married was epic, but … that was a group activity… it’s important to keep doing things that just challenge me, even if Kamel comes along sometimes.) So, in 2012 I’ve already started planning my Next Big Thing.

Starting in February Kamel and I will begin a month of rock climbing lessons! And I’m the girl who gets half way up anything and decides, “Nope! I’m good! I’ll just stay here! Thanks. Oh? Coming down you say? No thank you… I’m fine where I am.” So this should be interesting.

And then sometime after that we’re going to take a hot air balloon ride over Napa. I know, right? Ridiculous. And also – why haven’t we attempted this before? It’s always so much easier to do these things than I think they are, up until the point I decided to actually look into it. You should try it some time. Seriously, you’ll be shocked.

In general, I want to do things that excite me and scare me and push me beyond the imaginary limits I’ve set for myself. And above all, I want to remember to be enthusiastic, because excitement is contagious and being exceptionally stoked about what you have makes gratitude so much easier. Like I said, 2012 is going to be a supremely excellent year.

Thank you to Verhext for the inspiration! And to Mike Jutan for the amazing, amazing TedTalk

Real Life Conversations: Surprise!

Kamel: Sooo…. let’s say one of us got the other a ‘surprise’ Christmas present? Do you think we would have to tell the other person?

Me: What? Why? Did you get my a surprise Christmas gift besides new shoes? Do you think I got you a surprise Christmas present besides the new suit?

Kamel: I’m just asking, Lauren.

Me: That’s it! I’m getting you a surprise Christmas gift! Brainstorming begins now! Shit, but what do I get you? A puppy? Would you like a puppy?

Kamel: Lauren… you don’t have to get me anything extra. I just… I just thought that maybe if I got you gift A: shoes, and then gift C: that shall not be discussed, then maybe I should let you know.

Me: Nope! That’s it! Surprise gift for you! Handled. It’s happening. I don’t know what I’ll get you but oh-ho-ho it will be a surprise!

Kamel: Lauren…

Lauren: Handled.

Let’s Get Festive

Last week I was moaning about having no decorations in the house for the holidays and Sarah told me: Target, go there and ye shall be decorated to thy fullest. So! Saturday evening, armed with a budget Kamel and I left the house and headed out to find our winter wonderland.

This is the before picture of the living room windows:

This is the after picture of our living room windows:

We also set out to decorate the dining room. Here is the before:

Annnnd… here is the after:

So, what happened? Well… it turns out that decorating for the holidays involves getting crafty. And buying hooks for things. And string. And using push pins to hang ornaments at varying levels, and figuring out how to make the lights stick around the windows, and basically… I figured out that it wasn’t crankin’ up the Christmas tunes while prancing around the apartment marveling at the festiveness of it all. And that sucks. So instead of having a meltdown in Target, we decided to spend our decorating budget on this:

And we drank beer we already had from the America! party and watched bad TV while we waited for a Christmas movie to download – which we ended up never getting to.

Best troubleshooting decision we’ve ever made.

And we’ve decided that instead of jiggering together some shitty crafts (oh trust me, they would have been shitty… your craftiness is not shitty. Let’s just say my present wrapping involved masking tape and a prayer), we’re going to scope out the holiday sales after Christmas and keep our eyes peeled for decorations we really LOVE and want to pull out year after year, instead of stuff we probably would end up throwing away in a week when we move at some point in the future.

So, on this Monday, I raise a hoppy toast to the poinsettia, in all its festive glory, and to the cheese plate, because that’s a tradition worth repeating holidays or not.

The Mucus. OH THE MUCUS.

Ok, so this post may or may not be a direct correlation to the massive amounts of cheering on from the survey (Um, THANK YOU… a bigger post on stats, etc will be coming soon, promise). So many of you were all “tell me more things about your relationship!” and I was all, “that’s not boring and/or lame-o?” and you were all, “hell no! give us the dirt!” and then I was all, “Mucus, you guys… MUCOUS.”

You know I love Kamel. You know this, I don’t have to remind you, but I will… because lately? Lately I don’t like him. He’s so annoying! And he’s been sick for weeks! Which, in general I am very sympathetic towards. I give him medicine and I make sure he drinks fluids and I rub his back and give him sympathetic looks (and then when he’s not looking … eye rolls) because I realize that his man cold is so much worse than any lady cold could ever be. Ahem.

The truth is, he’s been sick since November 29 and now he has a cough that won’t quit (much like my bootay). It’s keeping him awake, and sleeping in the bed is too uncomfortable for him, so he’s been living on the couch. And hearing him hack and cough and belch and be generally gross for weeks is giving me a case of the icks. I realize this is selfish, poor Kamel is sick and I’m all “ew get away from me.” But I can’t help it. It makes me gag. And I definitely don’t want to kiss it… it as in “the gross mucous pie hole that all of the hacking and gunk comes shooting out of.”

We’re low on “The Sexy” over here, let me tell you. Is this what they meant by sometimes marriage isn’t pretty?

It doesn’t help that he isn’t the most polite sick person. There’s a lot of gagging hacks that happen mouth UNCOVERED. And there could be a lot more washing of hands. And I don’t want him on my pillow, touching my computer, or using my phone. But somehow it’s like the world moves in slow-mo as he’s reaching for my things and then rubbing them all over his snotty face and hands, (Exaggeration and batteries included for your convenience) and as I reach for it and go nooooooooooo! I’m always too late.

This combined with the whining has my husband getting on my every last nerve. My patience is tiny when it comes to bad attitudes, leaving kleenex and dirty clothes and wet towels willy nilly, forgetting things I’ve asked him to do, and the list could just keep going.

This makes me look bad, I realize this. The general consensus I’m sure is, “But Lauren, he’s sick! How can you require that he acts like a normal human being during such a trying time?”

And I have some answers for the nay sayers:

1) Because I am not his mother. That’s the big one. Just because you have a cough doesn’t mean you suddenly have two broken arms and two broken legs (oh god, cue flashback to my own mother saying the exact same thing….). Now that he’s out of the fever and feeling like crap stage, I need him to go back to being an active member of our household.

2) Because no matter how hard I try I can’t escape him. He’s always here, touching all of my things!!

3) Because whine-y people are the most unattractive creatures on the face of the planet. [shudder] So although the whining is coming out of the man I love the most in the world, I still want to throttle him until he shuuuuts upppp.

So yes, the mucous is invading my marriage. I’m hoping to grit my teeth until it decides to MOVE OUT. And thank you sweet baby jesus that I didn’t catch the thing that Kamel got… cuz hell hath no furry like a Lauren who got sick because Kamel couldn’t keep his grubby hands to himself.

And scene.

Grizzly Bear

Any of you who have ever met Kamel in real life knows he’s probably one of the most easy going men on the face of the planet. He doesn’t honk even when I feel like we’re about to be crushed by an SUV, he doesn’t engage with crazies on the street (I do), he doesn’t get worked up about things very often (even when I think he should), he’s generally up for anything and is the last to be frazzled (unless he has to ask someone to do something for him… he is incredibly shy about that). So I’ve taken to the roll of PROTECTOR.

When we were on our honeymoon and someone down the beach cried out “Shark!” while I was reading and Kamel was out swimming, I jolted up and marched to the surf while Kamel was gleefully trying to hunt it down and take a picture. When drunk man was harassing people outside of the Walgreens and latched onto Kamel while we were aiming for the entrance, I was the one who got loud and threatening. I was the one who told him to “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM US” the one who stood between Kamel and the man. I can’t help it, it’s my go to setting. Protect my people, that’s what I do.

But this is not what this story is about, because on Monday night things changed.

Kamel and I were laying in bed, doing our nightly “cool down” from the day. Poking around on the internet, playing silly cell phone games, warming the bed, blahblah. Then! a rattling noise came from our living room, the sound of someone trying to force our door open, a sudden thumping and rattling. Someone was trying to break in. I looked at Kamel for less than a millisecond, really I could have imagined both of our eyes flicking past each other before Kamel flung the comforter off himself, lept out of bed, and as he had clear sight of the door yelled, in the loudest, most dominate voice I’ve ever heard come out of his body,

“HEY!!

As in… “I’m going to fuck you up so hard you have no idea what’s coming to you get the hell out of my house whoever you are, I’m coming for you so you better move or get bulldozed.”

From my vantage point (the covers), that “hey” meant Kamel was talking to someone in particular, I thought he was yelling at someone he could see. I waited to hear the next move… was it stupid kids playing a prank? Our drunk neighbor trying to open the wrong door? Was it something worse? Should I follow Kamel or does he have it? When do I call 911? I was waiting for a signal.

And then Kamel chuckled. And scuttled back into the bedroom.

“Lauren,” he said, “It was a bag. It fell out of our closet, knocking a bunch of other things down and pushing the closet door open.”

But holy shit. I have to tell you, I’ve never felt more protected (except from my own father…. aww dads). I had never seen Kamel move so quickly, be so aggressive, or clear minded. He was going to protect his house, he was going to stand between me and whoever, phantom or real, was trying to get to me or enter our safe space. And dude – he was out the door and growling before I could even pull the covers back. Let’s do a review of the first two paragraphs and come back to this realization – dude was lightening fast.

And when he came back to bed, he hopped back on the iPad and kept playing whatever stupid game we’re addicted to at the moment, chuckling to himself quietly. In the meantime my eyes were about the size of grapefruits, staring at him and repeating, “You yelled ‘Hey!’ … you yelled it really loud… I’m really impressed…” while Kamel just shrugged it off.

Guestposting by Kamel: Americana Part II

When are you going to become a citizen? Why haven’t you applied yet?

Everyone used to ask me that over and over for years. At first I had zero interest because really I saw no benefit in it. My parents tried to get me to do it while I was still a minor, since it was much easier that way, but me being an obnoxious know it all, I refused.

Once I turned 18 I knew I would have to go through the long process that everyone used to tell horror stories about. I’d hear how it would take years or they’d ask you hard questions. I also believed that once I started I couldn’t travel until I was done. At this point I had just gotten my green card renewed a year earlier, so I knew I was good for 10 years.

So, I continued to rebel and ignore everyone’s suggestions that I should be naturalized. My grandma would even hand me newspaper clippings that had info on the ever changing immigration laws and how it was getting harder and harder to become a citizen. She was also afraid I’d get deported. Everyone was. But really how could that possibly happen? I was good for life as a US permanent resident as I had been since I was a little kid. Even though I was the only member of my family to still be a resident, I was okay with it. Plus the more they pushed me to do it the more I didn’t want to.

And then one day I met Lauren. (editors note: Dun dun duuunnnnn) You all know that story, but I bet you don’t know this little detail: she wasn’t comfortable with me not being a citizen. She, like my grandma, thought I could be at risk for deportation at any moment. But she also wanted us to be the same. For the first time in my life, I actually considered doing it. If only for her comfort.

One problem though, my green card was about to expire (wow ten years in one post). And one major requirement to being a citizen is having a valid green card. The renewal would take a while, cost around $600 and I wouldn’t be able to apply for naturalization until I had the new card. Also that meant that I had to pay for the new green card and then pay for citizenship. That was way too much for us at the moment.  So I renewed the green card in sept 2010 and we moved on with our wedding planning life.


In early 2011 I promised Lauren that I would apply for citizenship before our wedding. Why? Because I felt like I didn’t want her to feel like we weren’t both the same. I didn’t want to be a foreigner within my own family. I also wanted to do it. I was ready! …23 years later.

I researched the crap out of it and found a major roadblock. The process could take up to 6-7 months and I had to be in the city for 3 important dates: The biometrics appointment, the interview and the final oath ceremony. These dates could fall at any time and not attending could delay your application for a while. Too many delays and they reject you (but they, of course, keep the money). With lots of wedding travel planned plus a honeymoon, we decided to wait until after everything to apply.

A few days before I was ready, Lauren and I watched Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip by Alexandra Pelosi on HBO. This documentary took us through 50 oath ceremonies, one in each state. It was so moving that it made Lauren cry. So many people wanting so badly to become US citizens. Just like me now. 🙂

At the beginning of August, I went to the USCIS website and started working on my N-400. Wow. So many questions! Have you ever overthrown a government? Are you a habitual drunkard? Are you a prostitute? Others were much harder like, List every single trip made outside the US since becoming a Legal Resident. Yes they want all trips listed since 1988 for me. Ouch. I only had my last two passports that covered only since 2001. Earlier trips I decided not to list. (Spoiler alert, it worked out in the end as they just want to make sure you’ve been here for the last 5.)

On August 8th I overnighted my completed form, along with all fees and photos to the processing center in Phoenix as requested. The next day I received a text from them stating that my application was accepted and the process had officially started! A few weeks later I received my Biometrics appointment letter. By the end of the month I had
completed biometrics (retina scan, fingerprints) and in mid Sept I received my interview date for early October. I was on my way!


With each new notice and update I kept going back to a message board website to track my progress against other fellow immigrants. I also kept reading the site to try and get a better insight to what others were experiencing. Some cases were obviously going to be rejected and they were shocked when they were. Like a gentleman who was furious he got denied because they found his arrest record for selling cocaine a few months prior. Or another fellow who was rejected because his record showed he beat his wife. He was annoyed because they didn’t “get him or his culture” and duh, it was only a minor bruise on the wrist! Whatever dude. I’m glad he didn’t get in.

And of course I’d always keep Lauren up to date with each thing. The closer we got the more excited she got. She confessed to me that when I had my oath ceremony she would probably cry.

On October 11 I went to the USCIS processing center in downtown San Francisco for my formal interview. I was nervous because I’ve always heard how they could be tough on you. But Lauren came with and helped sooth me while also talking sense into me. See, I was ready to fight if they got snippy with me, but Lauren suggested I just play along and be nice no matter what. So I did.

The interview went well, save for a couple of mistakes on my forms that we corrected together. The interviewer then gave me the famous civics test. 10 questions and 6 must be correct. In the weeks prior I quizzed my coworkers and Lauren with these to practice. A lot of people, natural born citizens too, failed… horribly. When it was my turn, I rocked it. One question was, “what happened on 9/11/01?” Wow, so much I could say, I was building the story in my head and I started with, “Well, these terrorists attacks started…” and she cut me off and said, “Terrorist attacks is fine.” Handled.

On November 4 I received final approval and my ceremony was set for Nov 30th!! I had made it! I immediately let Lauren know and she was just as excited as I was. I love her. 🙂

I updated my stats on the website tracker, and noticed that the entire process took 114 days. Well below the national average of 5 months and way below some problem cities like Miami or Seattle which can take over a year.

So, there I was, at the Paramount Theater in Oakland at 8:15am. Lined up with 1202 approved-Citizens-to-be. I was excited and couldn’t believe it was finally going to happen.

Even Lauren’s parents flew down to see the event. I couldn’t wait for it to begin. I kept wondering if we would sing I’m Proud To Be An American as they do in others. (We did! and Lauren sent me a text: “Oh no they didn’t…. Oh YES they did!!”)

I was in the 4th row and Lauren and her parents were up in the balcony. We went through the entire ceremony (Which was very moving by the way. All natural born citizens should attend one once in their lives.)  and once we completed reciting the oath, boom, all 1202 of us were officially Citizens of the United States of America.

No more lines, no more waiting, and no more having to carry any form of proof of residency. Everyone was excited, taking pictures, waving American flags. It was quite the experience. We could all vote now or run for office! Finally, after years and years of people begging me to do this, I had done it. And honestly, it took a Lauren to get me to want to. For me and for her and for our new family.

Americana

Yesterday Kamel became a citizen! Tomorrow he’s going to be here, guest posting, about his own experience with the whole thing, but for now let me tell you – for anyone who was born here, seeing a citizenship ceremony is a must do.

Aside from the part where I was bursting with pride for Kamel, and choked up from the moment my parents and I dropped him off in his seating line, the ceremony itself is incredibly touching. People from all over the world are still scraping by to be part of the United States and that makes me appreciate the freedoms we have here so much more. As my parents and I talked about afterwards, we think every citizen should have to go through the oath, the ceremony, see why people make such a long journey through time and money and physical space to be here, to be able to vote, to have freedom of speech and religion and have the option to have a better life. Because even though the American Dream may be over blown, it still exists.

Yes, poverty exists in the United States. Yes, our government is flawed and big business rules in ways it shouldn’t. But! We can say we hate the government on a public blog and call them names and the law upholds my right to do so. I don’t have to worry about men with guns busting through my door. And I have the option to opt out of saying, “In God We Trust” or any other acknowledgement of God in government forms.

And while I scramble to build my career out of what I “like to do” and what I’m “good at,” I give thanks to being fortunate enough to live in a country that allows me to put my passions first. There are always going to be exceptions and unfortunate events, but their are success stories of people coming from poverty, from war torn countries, from dictators and oppression and being able to live a life of success and safety and comfort in the United States.

And for the humbling experience of taking a moment to not thumb my nose at the government and instead knowing the ability to do so is a right few people have, to understand in a real way how proud others are to renounce their country of origin and become an American, I am incredibly grateful.