The Last Holiday

11 Jul

So, there’s only 19 short days until my epic solo adventure across the world! And it’s totally starting to sink in. Mostly because I realized that ‘apostilled’ copies & ‘notorized’ copies are not the same as just normal record copies…& Mama G & I had a mini panic attack. But we figured it out! (I think?) & then I was able to enjoy my last holiday in the United States–The 4th of July!

How epic/metaphorically ironic is that? An English nerd like me geeks out at this type of symbolism…that my last holiday celebrated in my homeland is the holiday which glorifies it the most! What a great sending off party! Image (Above: My Grandparents, two of the most patriotic people I know, at the Millbury parade)

I have always really loved 4th of July. I mean, what’s not to? There’s cookouts, family, friends, carnivals, fireworks & it’s summer! However, as I got older, I began to appreciate the holiday a little more for what it was. I have always grown up in the most patriotic household. I have been taught to shake soldiers hands & thank them for their service, my Grammy taught me the Pledge of Allegiance in Kindergarten & Mama G has always stressed how symbolic & important a red, white & blue flag fluttering in the wind truly is.

It’s safe to say that I am a very proud American. I understand the beauty of our country is rooted in equality & opportunity, regardless of differences. This mindset has since been clouded, abused & at times, depleted by some, but it’s still intertwined in the basic framework.

Traveling in the past has really given me an outer perspective of what it means to actually be an American. Sociology believes that your sense of self is comprised of both 1) how you see yourself & 2) how others see you. Sadly, I feel like most Americans have too much of part one & not enough of part two. We know what we think of us, what other Americans think of us & we just assume what the rest of the world thinks of us. 

Hop on a plane to anywhere for a quick reality check.

Sadly, most of the world isn’t our #1 fans and in actuality…dislikes us. Of course, I am speaking on general terms & from personal experience, but I met French people who brutally attacked an American’s geographical knowledge & Australians who showed me tv shows they watch daily in which our country is the punchline. The truth hurts, huh? Image (Above: smh…but too true)

While living in Paris, I found myself experiencing some inner turmoil. Part of me wanted to acculturate. I wanted to dress better, eat local cuisine & just plain fit in. However, no matter how perfect my French was or how stylish my clothes were…my hair color always was the dead give away to my nationality. I stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of olive skinned brunettes. I was (not exaggerating here) ALWAYS WATCHED. On the metro, at restaurants, walking the streets–all eyes were on me. And I couldn’t help but feeling like this was, in no way, a compliment. It was an observation.

So many times I felt like I was the poster child for America. I felt like I had to defend the fact that so many of us don’t know half the countries in Asia, or what France’s political system is & that most of us don’t even care. I felt like I was being shamed, like I had to apologize for all my country’s problems! But this is something a proud American just cannot do. 

So I found the middle ground.

Instead of apologizing/feeling embarrassed or turning it around brutally attacking French culture…I tried to explain. The reason most stereotypes occur are due to misunderstanding. I pointed out that Geography is a subject that is barely even taught in American schools these days, while it is still heavily stressed with the French. Also, a survey found that only 37% of Americans are passionately involved in their country’s politics, while a whopping 84% of French adults are! You really cannot compare two countries that are so different, just like you shouldn’t blame every citizen for a particular country’s problem. ImageSo, as I prepare to immerse myself into another brand new culture, I ask myself one question…how? How do I remain a proud American citizen while still adapting to the ways of a completely different country? Obviously, I know I can still show my pride without fistpumping & chanting ‘USA!’ But this process of adapting is much harder than it seems. By the end of my study abroad semester in Paris–I had indeed morphed into a Parisian. I complied with norms like being silent on metros, never smiling when stranger’s approached me & just avoiding eye contact so I wouldn’t get extra attention. I changed. Normally I would be chatting away on a metro, offer a welcome smile to a lost tourist & make eye contact whenever I damn well pleased! It was weird.  But this is just all part of the process… Image ImageImage (Above: Noticing a pattern in my 3 countries of residence…?)

I always say that no matter where I live–I am always an American first. & No matter where I end up, or who I end up with, this won’t change. Yes, I will pick up some insight along the way, have some eye opening experiences, & continue to develop my sense of ‘self’.

No matter what country you reside in

Or how many houses you have,

You only have one home.

I love you Sutton, I love you 508, I love you Massachusetts, I love you America. No matter where my future takes me, I will never forget where I came from.

– JG 🙂


One Response to “The Last Holiday”

  1. ronald stacy December 11, 2013 at 1:39 am #

    Good for you and God bless America. They may not like us but they all need us.

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