Today, almost three decades after landing in Boston and having lived many lives in many cities since, I was naturalized as a citizen of the United States of America along with 916 other immigrants from 100 countries. The grand Gatsby art deco extravagance of Oakland’s Paramount Theatre of the Arts especially added to the awe and ambiance as teary-eyed I recited the Oath of Allegiance…“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Every immigrant has their own story and ambition. I may never truly know my father’s reason for bringing us to America though I have to believe it was moving enough to overcome inertia of leaving your home, country, and everything you know for the unknown you can only imagine. Perhaps it’s not much different from the intangible desire I have to chance a life at sea. Perhaps it’s simply the liberty to pursue a life of happiness.
There is a sense of bliss that has come with all of this…the way you may suddenly notice the absence of what was once subconsciously looming. I never fully acknowledged the possibility of being without a country but it has always been there, lingering, unresolved, looking over a shoulder.
Today, I am lighter and the feeling of freedom is as tactile as possibility of life beyond borders.