Monday, January 19, 2009

11 Years Ago Today

You have to stand against the world although you may have to stand alone”.
(Mahatma Gandi) – this is my calendar quote on today’s calendar.

Back when I used to read fairy tales, it always intrigued me how every prince (not princess – those were still patriarchal times, you see), when they turned 18, they left their parents’ home to look for their “fortune” in the world. The authors never told you what they were exactly looking for, and I always wished they did tell me what it was that they were looking for. They would always set off, on a horse, leaving their parents old, teary and sobbing, to look for their fortune, their meaning, it seemed, their sort in the world – you were told. And then the search, and the hardships, and the conquests and the final settling down with a beautiful princess would follow.

I guess that’s what I did myself, 11 years ago today, when I jumped on that plane from my home country to come to the United States. Unlike the princes in the stories, though, I was not yet 23. Not many people approved of if (none comes to mind), but I knew … that was my life, and I had to go find it. Powerful things happen when one goes out to meet their destiny, you know: like you pay no attention to your sobbing parents that have given you shelter, love and food for all your life, and you never turn around, but you just set off, curious what life, your life, has in store for you alone.

If you asked me then what was I doing coming here, and leaving home, I would have probably said: I am looking for my fortune, or my sort and meaning in life. If you asked me today what I was doing – I would probably tell you the same thing. And to this day, the answer is the same every single morning, when I set out the door. I am still looking. Not in the “never grow up” sort of way, but in the “what indeed is it that makes one so happy and fulfilled to say they’re done?!” sort of way.

I can only tell you: it was not “the American dream” I was after, like you might think. After 11 years of living in the country that still makes my dad’s most coveted dream to move to, I will be happy to report that I found out that there is no such thing as “the American dream”. I don’t believe there is one dream that’s all American, that every American lives for to accomplish. I think “the” life dream of anyone is personal, and is different for each one of us – and that is just a universal premise, not solely an American one.

Maybe, if there were such a thing as “the American dream”, then that would be to accomplish our individual dream, or dreams, unhindered, and in freedom. To be whoever we are, and to live the life we each see fit. And for Society and the Government to have little to say about that. Again: this could be any nation’s dream – but it’s easier to achieve in America.

I guess for me, my dream is just like 11 years ago: to just live right, with respect towards everyone and everything I come across, to be happy, take one day at a time, and see where the next plane takes me.

Sure, there are accomplishments (a relative term, I believe) to speak of: I have married, and divorced, I have had step children to take care of, I have still never rented, and owned alone or jointly about 4 homes so far, I have made a home, for me, and my loved ones, when they’re around, I have loved and been loved, I have more than doubled my income since my first job here, and the most wonderful accomplishment of all: I have managed to stay alive, and lead a healthy (again, relative term) life, despite all the medical predictions; I have made friends, and lost some, I have lost family and loved ones, I have become an aunt and a godmother one more time, I have bought and sold cars, totaled one too and survived it, I have cared for the sick, and helped the poor, I have rescued animals, I have traveled, and most importantly: I never forgot where I started.

During the 11 years of being far away, I feel still as close if not closer to my family, and as close to being Romanian as I’ll ever be, I hope: I still respect all my church given feasts, and I still think, just like Eliade thought, that the Orthodox faith is where all my strength lies, I cook 90% of my meals from scratch, just the way grandma taught me. I sew my own buttons, I knit my own scarves, and I hem my own pants!

There is little regret in this all. If I had to be given the same chances again, I would pursue them with the same enthusiasm as I did the first time around. It’s been a great journey, and one that I would say has been mostly on my own. I have met some wonderful folks along the way, and some of them helped me go in the direction I am going now, whether they knew it or meant to or not. But at the end of the day, I do believe, I have gotten here because of me, my choices, my tears, my laughs, my ambition, or lack of it, my calling – whatever that might be.

With my head full of curls and questions, still, just like 11 years ago, I still wonder what my sort is, and what my fortune will be, and wonder when I’ll find it. But I am happy to say that I would be thrilled to know there is no end to this search, and the search itself is what someone might call “my fortune” one day, when I’ll be long gone and forgotten.

For now, I am enjoying making plans for my next plane ride – and that’s how far I’ll ever want to go with my true “planning” and deadlining. As they say in Yoga: I forever want to stay a beginner: because beginners … will try anything.

And as always on this day: I want to thank my new country for having me and my family for loving me no matter how far I went, just like they promised then. This journey would not have been possible at all if it weren’t for those two mainstays in my life.

No comments: