Obama won! I’m so happy and relieved. I wish I could say “yes we did it.” But I can’t. As I am only a green card holder, I don’t have the right to vote. I didn’t contribute to this win.
My husband and I watched the election at a friend’s house last night and I really wanted to be as excited as everyone else. I really wanted to feel what THEY felt. I so wanted to be part of the experience, a part of history. But I couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely glad that Obama won, as he represents all the values I believe in as a human. But I still don’t feel like he’s MY president.
Yes, I have lived here for nearly 4 years, almost as long as a presidential term. But for some reason I still don’t feel like I’m a part of it. I still feel like an outsider. I still don’t care much about American politics. Even while I was watching the Olympics, I couldn’t seem to care about how many gold medals the US won.
For the last 2 years I was eligible to apply for citizenship and I am still thinking about it. But my reasons are more in terms of benefits and costs. For me, it’s pure cold calculations. Having a US citizenship will add more rights to what I already have as a green card holder.
But part of me is saying it will be cheating.
I’m not an American yet. What I am is a New Yorker. I love New York. I read about New York history, I am constantly learning about this city and feel that I know it well, intimately. But I don’t have the same feelings toward the rest of the country as I do about this city, MY city.
But in the moments like yesterday, it was a bit of a wake-up call. I realize that New York is not a separate country. It is an island, but only geographical. It is a part of a country I don’t know well. I don’t know its history, its leaders and I am not familiar with all the pop-culture references that my husband and his friends are always reminiscing about. I don’t even root for American sports teams.
Part of me still refuses to assimilate.
Part of me is taking this secure position of not belonging. In the end, it is sometimes easier being an “outsider.” I have a right of not knowing, the privilege to say, ‘I don’t know, I’m not from here.” But do I really have this right?
I live here. I have worked here. My friends are here. My immediate family is here (husband and two kitties.)
My husband and I are even buying a house here.
How long can somebody refuse to be a part of the life they live in?
How long will it take, if ever, until I will be able to call the United States my real home? Or even second home? Maybe I was too old to start a new life in a different country?
I’m proud of the speech Obama gave last night. I would be proud to call him my president, but how long will it take before I will be able to do it without feeling like I’m cheating?
For a person who does not yet feel a part of things, you do more than most native born Americans to help out. Your attitude and actions during the hurricane blew me away.
I guess it was easier because it was New York, my city 🙂
How long can somebody refuse to be a part of the life they live in? — That’s beautiful. Speaks volumes about the plight of the sensitive soul. Thanks for your lovely writing.
Good question and I’m on the same boat as you are. Let’s chat about it while drinking some piwo!
This is really thoughtful. I often find it hard to call myself an American, even though I was born and have always lived here. Especially during presidential elections, I find that living in New York makes me feel pretty remote from the rest of the country. It’s much more comforting to call myself a New Yorker. I realize your situation is more pronounced than this.
This is very interesting and can be the start of many different conversations. One thing I would point out is that America as a whole and New York City specifically has always been a place people come to. A joke is that a native New Yorker is always from somewhere else. So we all kind of feel like outsiders (even if that somewhere else is just the suburbs like it was in my case). It’s a mindset most of all.
Also the States is such a large country that it’s hard to have a sense of the entire place as home. I imagine that I would not feel any more at home in Topeka, Kansas, than I would in Warsaw, Poland. However, I would share common language and cultural references with Topeka which I would not in Warsaw.
Finally, isn’t there a thinking that to truly feel at home somewhere, you have to leave and return to it. I wonder if you were to spend an extended period somewhere else if some attachment mechanism would activate. Then on return a strong sense of familiarity with America would seal the deal. Or, it could back-fire. Maybe you’d spend a few months in Poland and realize that you’ve changed enough that you’re no longer at home there but still not at home here. Then you’d really be screwed!
it is always complicated .. I have been living here in the States for 20+ years and yet I feel now more nostalgic than ever .. I simply miss Poland, my language, my history, and my culture and have plans to settle to Krakow in a few years… I am a dual citizen and I don’t feel any confusion about that
All my graduate education and professional life happened here in the States ..I give this country the most productive years of my life
I do feel patriotic about the States as it is the country of my children and I voted in all presidential and elections since I became a citizen – once for Kerry and twice for Obama ( not that it makes a difference in Austin, Texas as Austin is a blue dot in a red state) .. but my heart belongs to Poland and I know it each time I hear a mazurka
… IMHO it is great you embraced New Your City as it is an amazing place but believe me US has a lot more to offer than just NYC …the nature here is simply amazing and the National Parks System is a great gift to the nation and the world too …
I noticed that in many cases it is a relationship with another person that causes people to immigrate ..and there are some risks in that unfortunately as life changes and relationships too
.. I often feel that us immigrants have really no country of our own any more .. as the country we immigrated to will never be truly deeply in our hearts and yet the country we came from has been changing while we were gone ..