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Independence Day: How I Changed My Thoughts About What America Would Be For Me

"My adopted city of Mishawaka has introduced me to a whole host of characters, some of whom would give the shirt off their back for me."

I came to the United States in January 2009. It was to be a strictly formal affair involving higher education and a studious young me. A strict transaction where I’d pay an ungodly amount of money for a respectable degree. I kissed my family goodbye and boarded the plane. I refused food onboard lest it distract me from my goals. There was a plan that I packed with my toiletries and underwear. It specified all the who, what and why. The who: friends I’d make would be Zimbabweans (or other Africans at the very least, if no Zimbo’s where readily available). The what: a rigid agenda to get a law degree in record time and by any means necessary, including, but not limited to, underground street fighting. The why boiled down to an othering that I believed in. I was this and this new place I was entering was that I thought. The United States was a step to my big, awesome future as a highly sought after lawyer. I knew where home was. Things played out differently, however.

As I wrote this, fireworks were going off all around me. 4th of July. Days before that, I joined millions in commemorating Juneteenth. I’ve gone from not knowing anything about football to cursing Tom Brady with the very best of them. The ways of this vast nation have become less odd. Eight years later the plan I carried with me across the Atlantic has been shredded, burned and scattered across the Hoosier state (As much as I do know about the USA, I still don’t know what a Hoosier is! I know it’s a resident of Indiana, but what is it?!). Though well intended, my plan was short-sighted and closed-minded. Its foundations were largely built on preconceived notions that I’d determined from afar (Only other Zimbabweans/Africans will get me). Yet, with nary malice nor judgement, I say sometimes it’s my fellow Africans that have understood me the least. I’ve been embraced with open arms by folks as American as cheeseburgers, and rejected by some of my sadza eating brethren. My adopted city of Mishawaka has introduced me to a whole host of characters, some of whom would give the shirt off their back for me. I’ve done Tai Chi at a Jewish Community Center, and dared to live outside the closet in a red state.

When I was a little girl I was the joker among my friends. I’d borrow library books with titles like 1001 Funniest Jokes and pour over it, then retell the jokes in class while the poor teacher tried to get explain decimals to us. Such antics were harder to pull off in detention though. That jokester got buried beneath mountains of upheaval until she was a faint memory getting more lost in the quagmire.

Yet, a series of seemingly unrelated events relit the embers and now I sling jokes almost weekly with intentions to do it some more! The dynamics of the USA are possibly the messiest on earth. To utter the words freedom and independence while trading human lives like a cheap pack of cards is the cruelest irony. The USA is its history; brutal and triumphant. It is its people, its blatant disregard of the metric system, it's slow, oft unsteady, chugging towards change. There is no adjective that can fully encapsulate it. The closest I’ve gotten is a sigh. This giant conundrum has become home. Its colorful characters, my friends.

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