"You don't have to agree with your politicians to be a patriot."
- Corbin O'Brien
I write to you today from my humble Wisconsin home, snuggled into a ridge overlooking the shores of Green Bay from the Door Peninsula, surrounded by a patchwork of farm fields and forest. The sight is one of beauty and contentment to me now, but had I shown it to my 20-something self, it would likely have seemed quite the foreign concept.
I have a fairly clear recollection of year 25 of my life….I’d completed college two years prior, exited a semi-long term relationship that had ceased to fit me, and was allowing time to pass me by as I moved robotically through one unfulfilling job after job. However, I’d also just spent a couple years intermittently traveling around the United States in search of extreme severe weather and had discovered a thirst for adventure; now I wanted to turn my sights overseas to more exotic places.
Over the next seven to eight years I would get my wish. I would travel the globe, first for pleasure and later as a profession, breaking in the midst only to complete a couple years of graduate school. I would discover my passion for the Hawaiian Islands, despite realizing the fact that I, personally, could never live there. I would heavily consider living in a variety of other countries, including France, Belgium, and Thailand. I would meet and become engaged to a European man, only to discover he wasn’t the right fit for me. And I would finally find that right fit in a Midwest-bred man whom I had to fly halfway around the globe to meet.
Yet despite the hefty dreams I had over all those years, the international relocation never did take place. I always remained an American resident, much to the detriment of my young, idealistic self.
Perhaps change happens gradually over time and perhaps it happens in large leaps and bounds, but more likely it’s some combination of the two, as it was for me.
My interest in roots started developing with my arrival into my 30’s, although those roots certainly took a few years to really dig down deep. The signs that change was occurring beneath all the layers slowly began to bubble to the surface, yet there still seemed to be many instances of one step forward, two steps back as my subconscious fought to hold on to my old identity and resist a transformation into something new.
Yet I now had the experience of really seeing and working in so much of the foreign world I had once dreamed of living in - the different standards of living, the (sometimes extreme) alien cultural practices, the wide-ranging differences in rights & expectations, and the occasional infringement on basic safety. Most importantly, I’d seen the very real limitations and restrictions, be they geographical or cultural, of life in other countries.
It wasn’t that they were all bad (although sometimes they were), but they were certainly different from that which I was accustomed to, and as much as I enjoy the challenge of adaptation that worldwide travel brings, it is entirely another thing to live long-term, day in and day out with those challenges. What it boils down to is that I had never developed a true appreciation for American living…until I left it for a minute.
Then one day that appreciation took a new form and hit me like a ton of bricks.
The story goes something like this….I was all set to join an entrepreneurial retreat in Thailand for a couple weeks, and just as I completed the process of booking my extensive flights to Asia I experienced the only legitimate panic attack I can ever remember having. I found myself in tears and unable to breathe, suddenly in a complete state of dread for what was now to come. Confused and unsure of what was happening, I took the advice of my partner and slept on this unexpected development, allowing my mind to calm and my intuition to shine through.
And shine through it did, like rays of sunshine through clear skies after a hurricane has blown through and cleaned out all the stagnant smog.
I’d never realized how much space that old part of my personality had been taking up; once it was cleared, those deep roots finally had their chance to bloom. The next week, my stagnating travel blog experienced its own metamorphosis and became the little green beauty it is today, something that still brings me joy every time I see it.
Similarly, I now experience a sense of joy every day over the beauty and opportunity of my homeland. This doesn’t mean I fail to comprehend the challenges and problems we face here on home soil, yet I no longer look across the oceans through rose-colored glasses and see my solution in departure. Instead, as I talked about after our latest election, I see my contentment in the smaller scale, in what I can offer my home, my family, and my community, and in what I can do to make life better on a daily basis.
What do I see when I see America?
I choose to see the beauty of my homeland. I see the varied landscapes and vistas of this incredible chunk of continent we exist upon as one joined land. I see the good that this country can offer its people, from our freedoms to our incredible range of cultures & values under one flag (even if we can’t always get along). I see the citizens who love their country and choose to serve it as best they can, in whatever way they can, out of a sense of deep gratitude.
I see all of this, and I am happy to call America my home. Indeed, I am finally home.