American

These days, being an American is exhausting.

I moved here six years ago, and with each political update, each headline or news story, I get more worn out. Where is the line to cross? Is there a line? Why haven’t we made it there yet?

This did not escalate quickly. It escalated over four years, but likely even longer.

I feel like my country has broken in half since I moved, which makes idyllic dreams of moving back a lot more complicated. I feel loss. I also feel with the same intensity as my friends and family, despite being gone.

I suppose this is a form of nationalism: what it means to be from a place. Makes me think of a podcast I listened to about Dolly Parton’s love of home and the Smoky Mountains. How much of who we are is tied to where we are from?

I have learned over the years that I am unequivocally American. I am loud for one (something in our voice carries at a different frequency that travels greater distances), I am excited (all the time), and I am apologetic (often for no reason). These last two traits are in opposition to the Dutch.

But when I used to shy away from “being American,” I don’t mind leaning into it nowadays, even at a time when it isn’t fashionable. It is still the place my father never left, the place my grandfather decided to immigrate to. Without my dad around, being from Boston has become more important to me too. Part of who I am.

But I think nationalism and even regionalism is problematic, and perhaps one of the many reasons why we have gotten ourselves into this mess. Identity politics. How do we get out of it now? How can we meet, compromise, agree? This is something America has forgotten how to do, and I worry we don’t know how to fix that.

It distracts me. Makes me tired. I keep thinking of my smaller circle of control. My smaller world. But sometimes I feel trapped by it. It feels more and more challenging to find things to appreciate in our 90 square meter home.

I am trying to be grateful for the things less loud, because those big things get attention they don’t deserve. And I am loud enough as it is.

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