Yesterday I became a citizen of the United States and, by coincidental timing, was accepted into a graduate program at my local university, to begin classes in the fall.
The citizenship thing comes with mixed emotions...it was the best, practical decision for our family and it is with genuine gratitude I become a member of this country. But it hurts to give up my Canadian citizenship; it feels like another door has closed on my past and I'm somehow further away from the life that came before this one. And then I feel ungracious for saying that, like a petulant guest who can only look backward and complain.
That's not how I feel and indeed, I tried to articulate some version of this thought in an unanticipated moment during the ceremony, when the officiators asked me to speak on behalf of the other naturalizing citizens (they asked EVERYONE to volunteer and I was shocked enough to consent). I tried to express how much gratitude we felt in the moment, yet an awareness of the sorrow and sacrifice that comes in leaving a homeland behind, and how much richer the United States has always been for the culture, languages, and traditions immigrants bring to its soil.
Being Canadian and having lived in this country for many years, I recognize my sacrifice is almost nonexistent compared to many others attending that ceremony. And yet I still carry a feeling that weighs heavy at times, a boundless love of Canada and the wild beauty that surrounded me growing up there. That beauty saved me, I think, and is such a part of my inner world I sometimes forget to distinguish it from reality.
But I love the United States, too. I'm deeply moved by the principles upon which it was founded, the invocation of divine guidance, the ongoing experiment of liberty and justice for all. It is my children's native land and I've always been grateful for that.
So I guess my state of mind is no more settled than I said in the beginning: a mixture of emotions, each one heartfelt as the next.
The opportunity to pursue more schooling is also something I've been considering for awhile...perhaps I'll leave off discussing this until classes begin and I see if my brain can actually handle the shock.
At any rate, I continue to marvel at life and its capacity for change (do I always say this?)--how happy, bittersweet, and sorrowful things can occur simultaneously, sometimes at a breathtaking pace. At the naturalization ceremony yesterday I wanted to gather everyone up and pave a safe, sheltered road into their new lives, and yet it's from those who've suffered the greatest I could probably learn the most. I try to fix this understanding in my own heart--that bittersweet and sorrowful moments refine me in ways the happy ones cannot.
Not to disparage happy moments, mind you. They're lovely and good for the soul.
I'll take it all and keep trying to do my best...I hope I'm getting closer, I hope you are, too.