Four years ago I stood in Rockefeller Center in New York City and watched Barack Obama become president. It was a thrilling night and the only thing missing was my vote.
I have never voted. Anywhere. I left Canada before ever voting there and could not vote in the US with just my greencard. I have been here for 20 years now. I have paid my taxes, supported my local economy, and volunteered in my community. The only thing I haven’t done is vote.
And so, I have never sung the national anthem or any other patriotic American song. I have wanted to, but I always felt like an outsider. On September 11th I wept like every other American, but I could not place my hand over my broken heart and sing to a country that had not yet adopted me as one of its own.
Although I have been eligible to become a citizen for years, I developed a phobia of paperwork after years of filling out an endless stream of medical forms for my Crohns and immigration forms for my Canadianness. I burned out on forms and found any excuse to avoid them.
My husband, on the other hand, finds that filling out forms is second nature to him. His dad refused to fill them out and he got accustomed from an early age to preparing a form for someone else to sign. Sometimes he even just used a signature stamp to save his dad the trouble (note to self: purchase signature stamp). So, when my husband offered to fill out all the forms to apply for my citizenship, I graciously agreed to sign them.
Many months and redundant bureaucratic redundancies later, my last appointment with Immigration took place two weeks ago. I went in to show them my shiny new driver’s license establishing my residency in Connecticut, and I walked out with a letter inviting me to the courthouse on October 5th to take my oath of allegiance. Tears welled up and my throat tightened. After facing deportation, a three-year period when I could not leave country to visit my grandmother, and countless other crazy, humiliating, and frustrating situations, the end was within sight. Actually, the beginning was in sight.
In a few days I will proudly take my oath and a couple of weeks afterwards I will receive my U.S. passport. My husband wonders why I would want to become a citizen of a country that tried to deport me and suffers from so many problems. Sure, this country has problems. But so do our children, and we don’t love them any less. I love it here, warts and all. The fact is, I’ve lived here more than half my life, and I’m already American in everything but name. I went to school here, worked here, made friends here, married here, and had my child here. This truly is the Land of Opportunity, and none of this – my life – would have been possible in any other country. And so, I plan to return the favor with the privilege I have dreamed of for 20 years: casting my first vote this November.