On This New Country of Mine

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.

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26 thoughts on “On This New Country of Mine

  1. What a beautiful post, Pernille. You are part of what will help America fulfill its promises and move toward a better, kinder, more inclusive direction. Congratulations on this remarkable day!

  2. Beautifully written as always, Pernille! So proud of you and your continual reflection on what it means to be a human, a wife and mom, ateacher and now an American. I have been blessed by your humility, willingness to share your journey and your invitation to reflect along the way. I know you will continue to urge me and many others to stay awake, be aware, be kind and not rest on our privilege, but to work toward social justice and stand up for kids, families and people in general. Thank you for becoming an American. We are a messy place, but let’s make it a glorious mess as full of joy as a toddler fingerpainting!

  3. Congratulations! Welcome Home! I am proud to call you my American sister! I love my country and have always felt fortunate to be an American. I hope you always feel at home here.

  4. Congratulations. Thank you for the beautiful post. The United States of America is the better for wonderful immigrants who come to renew and refresh and build our country and to encourage us to live up to our ideals.

  5. Pernille,
    This is beautiful. You gave me pause, and then I found my eyes welling with your words tumbling around my mind. Thank you for finding the beauty in the mess and helping me to see it too.
    Ruth

  6. Congratulations, you are amazing! Kind Regards, Patti England

    “When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become. — Louis Pasteur”

  7. Believe me when I say that you are someone who helps me be positively vocal when needed. You are an inspiration, a great encourager, and validate the work we do as educators. Thank you and congratulations!

  8. Congratulations on a brave change. Twenty years ago I moved from Canada to Florida and went through a difficult immigration process and that was before 9/11. I moved simply to enjoy warm weather for the second half of my life. I don’t regret that decision but I do not embrace this flawed country as I have had my eyes opened widely. As a teacher it has been easier to face this country’s issues because they are all teachable moments and teaching every student is a chance to improve the future. Best wishes to you and your teaching future.

  9. Congratulations! You are so inspiring as a parent, teacher, mentor, and now a US citizen. Thank you for all you do! You have made a difference in so many classrooms, including my own!

  10. Congratulations, Pernille! Your contributions to the field of education are invaluable. I only wish that you were treated with more respect and kindness when you arrived so you didn’t feel so marginalized all these years.

  11. Pernille, Congratulations, on becoming a citizen of the United States! My mom became a citizen a few years after she moved here from Japan. (She knew more about US History than I did-which I’m sure you do now as well 🙂 ) I hope we can all play a part and work for change together.

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