Brandon stood outside the door, ready to congratulate me. My best friend, my better half, took one look and asked why I was crying. It was hard to find the right words…
I came here in 1998 with the idea of staying one year. I had said my goodbyes but they felt like so longs and yet as the years progressed, my home, Denmark, slipped further and further away. Once I married Brandon and Denmark changed its immigration laws, I realized that this country was probably my home, because no longer could the man I loved come with me. It hit me like a ton of bricks because in this country, as an immigrant, I was not seen as a full person with equal rights. And yet, I stayed, believing in this nation and the work that we do in education for the future of us all.
But I’ll tell you; the past eight months, as an immigrant to this nation, have not been easy. Every time I have left, I have wondered whether I would be allowed back in. When I have discussed my political opinions, I have wondered if my name would show up on a list somewhere. I have worried that this country which has been my home for 19 years and is the birth-nation of my husband and children, was no longer a safe place for me or anyone who does not fit this version of what it takes to make America great again. I have been reminded of my own white privilege and then also been reminded that just like that, what I take for granted, could be taken away.
It wears on you when day in and day out, you don’t know if this is the place you belong. I cannot imagine what it must feel like for those who feel this way every day, with no end in sight.
So when I took the oath today, I cried. Not just because I am proud to become a part of the glorious mess that is the American experience. Not just because I can now travel without worry. Not just because I get to vote, but because I feel this sense of relief. Like my rights cannot be so easily dismissed or taken away. Like I now matter to this nation, as if I am fully human here now, and not just someone with pseudo rights that can be easily tossed out.
When you are born with these privileges you may not know what it means to be handed them. This is the closest I will ever come to feeling marginalized and that is something worth remembering.
So I cried my tears and then I registered to vote and in my heart, I said yes.
Yes to seeing the greatness that already exists.
Yes to being a part of the change that we need.
Yes to fighting for the things I believe in. And fighting loudly.
Yes to seeing the flaws.
Yes to realizing that my voice matters now more than ever.
Yes to taking responsibility and also being in awe of that.
I am now a citizen of the United States of America and I am ready to work for change.