Today I Became an American Citizen

On March 30, 2002 - almost 17 years ago - my family and I disembarked from an airplane in Houston, Texas.  Our new home.

I had long dreamed of moving to America, Texas specifically.  As a fifteen year old in high school, I remember telling a classmate, "before I am 21, I will be living in Texas."  I had absolutely no line of sight as to how I would accomplish this but I was willing to talk a pretty big game.

My dream came true two months before my 19th birthday. Even though it was a dream come true, it took a while before I began to view Texas as my true home.  One summer in 2005 I had gone out of state for a week, and as we crossed back into Texas I experienced for the first time that I was coming home.

Today, after many years, I became an American citizen.

It is sort of a surreal experience.  For ten years, I have carried a green card in my wallet.  For years before that, some other type of paper documentation to support my existence here.  I have stood in international student lines, I've had to supply my authorization to work for employment.  I have had to notify the government of my address changes.  Worst of all, I have been deeply passionate about politics and unable to cast a vote (though I have been one hell of a taxpayer!).

Today that all changes.  They took away my green card and immigration documents and bestowed upon me this invisible sense of truly belonging here.  They gave me rights.  They gave me permanence. 

The details of the oath ceremony will become a fuzzy memory over time.  I'll forget what I wore.  I might forget the exact wording of the oath.  But I won't forget what a privilege it is to come through this process, to have earned the right to call myself an American.  It has been expensive, and it has taken a long time.  But I know I will never forget the thrill the first time I get to check a box stating that I am an American citizen.

It's a small thing, perhaps.  No one passing by me will be able to detect the change in me.  But it is the marking of a dream come true.


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