Every 4 July Americans celebrate Independence Day - commemorating the signing of the declaration of independence back in 1776 which marked the legal separation of the '13 Colonies' from Great Britain.
In a country known (and indeed often mocked by critics) for its patriotism the 4 July probably marks American patriotism at its finest. Flags bearing the stars and stripes adorn practically every car, home and shop window. It is of course a national holiday and therefore a day off work and for many that means barbeques, beers and general frolicking. But I can't help but feel -and perhaps this is somewhat a result of my starry, striped rose tinted view - that generally speaking across the country, Americans of all colors and religions celebrate this day, perhaps not singing the national anthem and reciting the declaration of independence (although am sure in certain parts this is de rigeur) but nonetheless with a strong and heartfelt sense of pride and gratitude for their country.
I was in LA for 4 July last year. I was due to fly back to London a few weeks later and was anxiously waiting to hear if my o1 visa would be granted. I truly didn't know if I would be returning to London for good and my American adventure would be coming to an premature end so I decided to join in on the celebrations with gusto. During the day I went to a very fun, incredibly well catered for and organized party at a well known TV host's gorgeous home and then in the evening onto a less glamorous but for me much more heartfelt gathering. The couple in question were both American born and brought up, both worked in the entertainment industry and were from different ethnic backgrounds. The father was African American and the mother Korean and they had a particularly adorable little girl. They had the most eclectic crowd at their house, most of us sprawling out on the lawn in front of the house waiting for the fireworks display to start. From older Korean grannies not speaking a word of English, chattering away to each other (and to me) in their mother tongue and trying to force food down my throat to hip, cool, rapper types surreptitiously smoking roll ups a few yards away thinking the waft of green smoke wasn't going to make it our way (it did) to the randoms including waifs and strays like me. It was my kind of bash, mixed bunch of fruit and nuts, total inadvertent comedy, chaotic, real and full of love - and food although I DO NOT LIKE KIMCHI. AND NEVER WILL. Sorry, Korean grannies.
I leant back across the grass and closed my eyes to meditate for a few minutes. Somehow I found a stillness and silence amongst all the chattering and hubbub and mused as to why being in America felt so right, why LA, a city that had been the lowest of the low on my list of places to even visit, let alone live in, now felt like my home town. I didn't have the answers to these questions of course. But later on that evening I went back to my apartment, found the declaration of independence online and re-read it in full. And there it was. My answer. Not just in the words but in the realization I had in reading those words. Something about America and specifically LA, had touched my soul and told my heart that it was here that I would find the life I was meant to lead, liberty and be able to pursue true happiness. And despite the rocky times I have had since getting my visa last August I know with absolute certainty that the realization I had last 'Independence Day' was not only correct but also marked a significant step in MY independence. In realizing that I didn't have to conform to my loved ones, myself at times of fear and doubt, or wider society's opinions as to how and where I should live my life.
I think it is safe to say that America is far from perfect. There are many things about its culture and policies that I find questionable and dare I say on occasion somewhat abhorrent. And there are many times when my heart aches for the familiarity and security of my former home. It isn't just my loved ones that I miss but also the quirkiness and vibrancy of London and all things English. But just as my Twitter byline says about me, America too is a work in progress. And just as I have faith in myself to constantly improve, become a better version of myself and achieve I have absolute faith that there is a tide that is rapidly changing here that will bring positive change not just for America but for the world at large. Who knows maybe I will even get to play a small part in that tide of positivity. I'm sure I will get mocked for having delusions of grandeur to even make such a statement but I guess time will tell...
So this Independence Day when all those around me will be raising their beers celebrating the separation of America from Great Britain I will be raising a mug of good ole PG tips in honour of both glorious Great Britain, my former homeland, and America - my new home, to the past, the present and the future - to independence and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.