I have had a green card since I was a teenager in the early nineties. Although I did return to Canada for a long stint at several colleges, I have consistently lived in this country for the last 17 years; pretty much the entirety of my adult life. Despite qualifying for citizenship for a decade or two, I only finally completed the process this year. Why now? And what took me so darn long?
The simple and not entirely intriguing answer is that I am Canadian. It’s part of my identity and has been for forty years. We moved around to several different countries as I was growing up; wherever we went, I was always Canadian.
So as I settled in in California when I started teaching and later bounced around to Rhode Island, Utah, back to California, and now Colorado, I have remained a Canadian girl (now woman I guess). It’s like how I have brown hair (now technically mostly brown I guess), blue eyes (still!), and bucketloads of charisma. 😉 It’s just who I am.
Not coincidentally, how I define myself has never included any notion of being political. I have never been drawn to advocacy or, if I’m honest, even to a responsible level of current events knowledge.
The fall of 2016 changed that and most certainly the fact that children continue to be killed while trying to attend school changed that. We love where we live and don’t have plans to move out of the country, so I began to wonder: What am I doing? Continuing to live here without citizenship or real participation in our democracy felt like having a friendly boyfriend I didn’t want to move in with.
I remember when my husband and I were about to be married ten years ago. Our relationship had already been long – not as long as my current relationship with this country – but we had been somewhat together here and there for ten years prior to our wedding. Did it really matter to me? The whole “making it official” thing?
As it turned out, it did (to me). After we were married, I did feel different. My approach did shift. When things went a little south, as they frequently do in long term relationships, instead of daydreaming about what else could be, once married I set my jaw and tried to determine where my responsibility lay for turning us back around. Personally, I didn’t consistently possess this mature attitude pre-legally-binding-ceremony.
On or around approximately November 9, 2016 I felt the instinct that it was time. Time to grow up and not just live here by haphazard selection off of a short list of “cute towns near mountains”, but responsibly commit to the land I had chosen as a home for my family. I bit the bullet and sent in my application.
The fingerprinting, the paperwork, the studying, the interview – all of this took a little over a year and several months ago I found myself in another legally binding ceremony, this time with a country. The ceremony was the best part. (Not as enjoyable as my wedding, but sweet nonetheless.) Witnessing the joy on so many faces, from almost thirty different countries spanning the globe – faces that had likely had a much more challenging road towards citizenship than I – was far and away the highlight. Within an hour, we were all Americans!
And although I had assumed I would miss being able to reject the people with clipboards outside the library and grocery store quickly with a “Sorry, I’m not even a citizen!” instead I feel like I am a part of this community in a different way, both locally and nationally. I too am responsible for less daydreaming, more participation when things get rough.
I am still conflicted by the identity part. I will always be Canadian, but now I am also American!