Tuesday, November 25, 2008

(Sort of) Wild At Heart

My friend L.K. from NC made a teasing comment today about how "wild" I've gotten over here in Ireland. I know she was (mostly) joking, but the fact is that there is a kernel of truth in what she said. There's something about having made such an earth shattering (to me) life change that makes it that much easier to try things and contemplate possibilities that would never have fit with my old self.

The pre-Ireland, pre-blogger me was caught in a rut of her own making, and she knew it. I could have stayed in my mostly comfortable, largely happy life and kept on doing the same things on and on. Eventually, my sense of being boxed in and living inside skin just a size too small may have faded away and left me, and that probably would have been ok. But, you know what? I like doing more than ok. I like finding myself chancing things that I would have pooh poohed or talked myself out of (I'm a great overintellectualizer) or just been too darn scared to imagine before. The box, the limits, I'd created for myself and talked myself into accepting was very familiar and very comfortable.

This? Isn't comfortable. Not at all. And sometimes I really feel it. I miss my townhouse, family, friends and the other great things that surrounded me in Raleigh. I find myself flashing to the most random images sometimes... being in my car driving down the highway at 74 mph (if you keep it less than 10 under the speed limit, the cops probably won't stop you); meeting up with the Friday Night Girls for Maker's Mark and random conversations about bodily functions; spending a quiet Friday night till late in Barnes & Noble with a truckload of books and something sweet from their cafe (a bookstore open till 11 pm!); long, reflective conversations with E.J.; the final moments of the Maundy Thursday church service before Easter; getting my semi-regular massage from John (best hands ever!) while Narada-ish muzak plays in the background. But, the happy truth is that I'm still glad I made the move. On the face of it, my life here is pretty normal, but just being forced out of my routine and forced to examine my assumptions and beliefs about myself has been incredibly liberating.

So yeah, pre-Ireland me would never have put her thoughts out on the web for anyone to see, hosted strangers in her house, chanced making friends online, flirted madly via text, or considered getting inked. Considering my previous comfort zone, that is pretty darn wild. But then, as I face the last few weeks before the big 4-0, I'm thrilled I took the chance to see what life could be like outside the box.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"That One" Makes History and There's No Going Back

My stomach is in knots, my heart is like a stone in my chest, and I don't know if I can handle one more truly fascinated Irish compatriot asking me for my opinion about what's going to happen tomorrow. I'm torn between trolling the internet for every bit of election news I can get vs. not wanting to think about tomorrow night at all for fear that I might feel just a bit too much optimism and so totally jinx the whole thing!

Similarly, I'm alternately proud and saddened about what this election means for me personally and as a (Jamaican) American. The fact is it took me years to make the decision to relinquish my Jamaican citizenship for the U.S. one. Not because I ever planned to move back permanently, but because (as you might have guessed by now) being Jamaican is part of the core of my identity and the passport symbolized that. On the other hand, having spent all of the last 30 years but one in the States, I've also been quite americanized and am completely emotionally invested in what's going on at home.

This will be the very first presidential election I'll have had the opportunity to vote in since becoming a naturalized citizen 3 years ago, and what a way to lose my electoral virginity! I'm bursting with pride that America has come to the point of actually almost electing a partially black man to be President of the United States [wow, I get shivers just writing that!] and that I had the chance to be a part of that history. But, I'm also terrified that it all sounds too good to be true. That my hopes will be dashed (or stolen) again. Mostly, that it means so much and my history isn't great for these kind of things working out.

Of course the latter statement makes it sound like I think I actually have the power to personally jinx this. Sadly, I don't think I'm the only one with the same unwarranted superstition - I'm sure a lot of other Democrats feel the same way - so I'm imagining huge swathes of the population in the country right now all repeating the mantra "Don't wish too hard. Don't get too excited. Don't expect too much!"

In the end though, no matter what happens tomorrow, we will all survive. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. The world won't really come to an end, though I know several friends who've threatened (jokingly and not so jokingly) to use their passport and join me in expat-life if we have to face another 8 years of the same old, same old. We'll go back to living as neighbors again, no matter whether we're living in Red or Blue (or yellow-striped) country. We'll work together, socialize with each other, go to the same church, love each other, and fall asleep in the same bed together just like before all this started. The yard signs will come down and hopefully all the nasty Facebook flair will disappear, as will most of the rumors about who's secretly a terroristic, socialist-loving muslim. The Us vs. Them mentality will diminish a bit and we'll go back to being individuals again who can admit that our loved ones on The Other Side are actually relatively intelligent, thoughtful people who don't really want to destroy everything we believe in.

America and its politics will start to feel somewhat normal again. But, no one will ever be able to take away the fact that American politics has passed a major milestone, one I never seriously considered I would see in my lifetime. A woman yes. A "black" man? We've come a long way, baby, all of us. And there's nothing anyone can do to make us go back!

Note: Sadly, a piece of Obama's own personal history was lost today when his grandmother died of cancer. My condolences on his loss. But I loved the CNN commentator's quote from Psalm 30:5 - "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." That's something we can all pray for.