In the first episode of the second season of British television show, The Hour its protagonist, Freddie Lyon upon returning from America explains why he was intoxicated by the new world:
“Being nobody in a country where everybody thinks they can be somebody…”
That one utterance by a fictional character sums up why every immigrant wants to come to America and that does include me. This is the country where Albert Einstein and Nicola Tesla were somebody. This is the place where Kim Kardashian and Alex Rodriguez are somebody. Kanye West and Steve Jobs, they are somebody. At one point they were nobodies. This quirky, burger munching, frappuccino swigging, football loving, gas-guzzling cross between utopia and Disney Land is a nation of nobodies who are on their way to be somebody.
And that is the beauty of America.
On a globe, America is a landmass, a country. In an immigrant’s heart it is a belief that future is almost always better. It may not be perfect and it is certainly not equal, but it still is one of a kind — the only place where an absolute stranger with a funny name and a funny accent with no friends or contacts can show up, work hard and actually get to do what he was destined to do.
That America is the place, I can now officially call home.
Today, in a ceremony at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California, I was sworn in along with 1224 others and we became Americans. I am still memorizing the Star Spangled Banner and trying to imprint the oath of allegiance on my heart, but I have always known that I was an American.
Long before I left my parents home, in those hot summer nights when I read American magazines and dreamed of New York, I knew where I belonged. That America was brought alive by pulp fiction and noir writers. America was Michael Jackson. America was Wall Street. America was Tom Wolfe’s Electric Acid Kool Aid Test and his Bonfire of Vanities. America was Bell Labs. It was Bruce Springsteen.
The America I found was a kaleidoscope of all those fictions and many more realities. Random acts of kindness from absolute strangers, failures that taught more than successes, disappointments that taught the meaning of joy, but most importantly the America I found was a place where my mind could finally roam free. It was a place where I learned that tomorrow is another opportunity.
I didn’t come here for some canned version of an American dream — a two car garage and a house in the suburbs. It certainly wasn’t about getting rich. And it wasn’t about snapping a selfie with Scarlett Johansen (though it would be supercool). Instead, it was about the promise that people should have a chance to attain their hopes and dreams.
In most places in the world, outsiders like me don’t have that chance. That simple truth is what makes America so special. A chance – to be somebody even if you are nobody. America is a state of mind and I have opted-in!