Citizenship Test

Today, I finally became a citizen of the United States of America.

I know, intellectually, its an accomplishment, and that I should be proud. I imagine I will, eventually. I imagine that once the shock and relief wears off, I’ll be able to relax.

It will be nice to relax. It’s been hard work. I wasn’t expecting my past, my upbringing, my culture to continue to make things difficult. It’s hard adopting a new home, and its tough feeling like you’re forsaking your old one.

It took longer than I had expected. I’d been living here long enough that I had guessed, as they had assumed I would by their tone and reactions, that it would seem more natural, that it wouldn’t acquire so much concerted effort to pass.

I kept feeling like it was so clear I wasn’t from here. That they knew I was an outsider, a foreigner. Today, I’m not a foreigner anymore. I’m a citizen.

Today, a man was shot with a machine gun during baseball practice, and I felt nothing.

Finally, the pangs of nostalgia and longing for my old life, for my old home, a place for which there is no name because a place that is no longer home is just a place, are gone.

I didn’t feel pain, or anguish, or empathy. I didn’t find myself questioning my safety, as I’ve been taught that I’m safe wherever I go where people look like me. I didn’t even spend a lot of time thinking about it at all.

I just moved on.

I’ve learned these things are normal, the price you pay for freedom. I’ve learned that you will never be able to stop evil people from existing, that knowing they’re evil is enough. I’ve learned I’ll never be evil, which they’ve taught me makes me feel good.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that since these things are normal, that they can just pass. They’re normal, so they’re nothing. Today, I finally feel nothing, and I am so shocked to finally be here that I can barely feel grateful - I’m just relieved.

My only hesitation, before I begin my life as a citizen in my adopted homeland, comes when I look around and see real Americans, who never knew a land other than this, put on the performance only one steeped in the culture can perform. It’s the accent of a true native, the declarations of unity, the ‘prayers and thoughts’, the crocodile tears. They look so sincere. I almost feel sorrow with them before I remember what I have been taught: that this is normal, so this is nothing.

One day, someday, hopefully, I’ll be a real American. One day, this will be my home.