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Random Highlights August 7, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in random.
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  • I just read the Time magazine article on exercise and it’s apparent counter productiveness and I actually feel very relieved.  Not because I want to stop my regime (I actually feel better than I have in a long time) but because I have been a LOT hungrier lately and could not for the life of me figure out why.  Now I feel a bit better and strangely less hungry… hoorah for psychosomatic tendencies!
  • Casual Fridays are frequently my dressiest day at work.  M and I have been trying new places around DC because we both work in the city now, and going back home only to come back makes no sense.  We’re going to a restaurant that was recommended on behalf of its fabulous drinks and not too pricey food, so I’m quite excited.
  • Two of M’s sister’s friends who have become my friends came over last night for dinner.  One of them, Lainey, asked when M and I are getting married.  I smiled and told her she would have to ask him, and he was playing Wii Tennis, so his response was something along the lines of “uh…I dunno…OH COME ON YOU STUPID ASSHOLE DAAAMMMITTTT FUUUUUCCK!”  He sure knows how to make the ladies swoon😀
  • M’s sister is due in five weeks, and her baby shower is at the end of this month.  She and M continuously refer to the baby as my nephew, which hasn’t gotten any less strange.  Does anyone have a weird time dealing with being called “Aunt” or “Uncle” by their significant others family?  Maybe it’s just my aversion to children right now, because I frequently refer to her as my “sister-in-law” (but mostly because that term flows better in conversation than “my boyfriends sister”)  I truly believe that while I am ready for marriage and domestic bliss right now, M will be ready for kids possibly long before I am.  The whole concept truly just…freaks me out.  Watching people with babies is fun and cute until I picture myself with my own, and then I just feel nervous.  M’s cousin did this trick where she puts a necklace with a ring on it into your palm and lifts it up and down, and when she stops, the number of twists in the necklace is the number of children you’ll have.  M will apparently have two, and me?  Zero.  And part of me felt relieved.  I hope my feelings change.
  • We’re going to Atlantic City Saturday night.  M’s cousin is flying from Spain to El Salvador, and arranged a layover in DC that she extended for a few days so she can visit.  M and I wanted to go to New York, but we were the only ones, so we decided to go by ourselves one weekend before I start school again.  I’m excited.  I❤ New York very much and would love to live there for a year or two someday, so visiting is always a chance to live vicariously through…myself for a few days.  Places to stay on the cheap, but nice and restaurant recommendations are always much appreciated😀
  • I’m still kinda crazy about my job.  I have coworkers who I now consider friends.  I have more responsibilities, so I feel stressed but appreciated and I basically just really enjoy being there.  I feel content and pleased with the amount I get done and the praise I receive.  I’m truly happy and feel very, very lucky.

What’s randomly going on in your life/mind?

We can be quiet together, and pretend—since it is only the beginning—that we have all the time in the world. August 3, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in I kinda love my life, M, realizations.
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Realizing that the way you feel about a belief or a passion or a person is changing does not happen unless you have a full comprehension of where you’re coming from.  Obvious right?  And yesterday I realized that, while I have been in love with M for almost six years, I have never been what could be described as “comfortable” in that love.

I am comfortable with him.  Neither of us walk on eggshells, we are honest, we argue, we’re mushy and affectionate.  I’ve been aware of the good he brings to my life, of the respect and admiration he inspires in other people.  I’ve gotten to know him very well, and he’s gotten to know me.  I am still learning things about him all the time.  He is still very capable of surprising me.  And I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I hope beyond anything I have ever hoped that we spend the rest of our lives together, but I haven’t  allowed myself to believe we will.

I think I’ve been afraid of settling in to being comfortable and happy in my relationship with M because I’m afraid that the second I do, something horrible will happen.  But I also think it’s in large part because it is only now that M and I are entering into a whole new part of our relationship, where we not only love and want each other, but we like each other and respect each other almost unequivocally.  We rely on each other and trust that no harm will come purposely from the other.  It’s something that can only come with time.  Isn’t that the argument against ‘love at first sight’?  That you can only really love someone with time and really getting to know them?

I think the best analogy for a relationship is the concept of learning a very complicated, intricate dance.  You’re stumbling around each other for a while, then when you feel you have the hang of the steps, you still need to learn how to coordinate around and with your partner.  And then one day, you’re dancing together as you always have, but something just clicks and settles, and suddenly you’re moving as a unit.  It’s easy and fun and you have faith that, should you stumble, your partner will catch you.

I have faith that M and I would have gotten here whether we decided to marry five years ago, or if we wait until five years from now.  But there is something about the thought of marrying M after this comfort level has been reached that, cheesily, makes my heart sing.  I feel as though I can relax now, and the future will take care of itself without forceful interventions from my insecurities.

We went curtain shopping yesterday and walked around the appliance section at Sears, discussing our wants and likes for the house in our future.  We laughed and made fun of each others tastes and agreed and disagreed on things.

As we walked through the parking lot to the car, he asked what I think we should get his sister as a gift for her baby.  I shrugged and said I don’t really care, it’s his nephew, he can pick.  He took my hand and said “its your nephew too, my Tina, like it or not.  What’s mine is yours, and that includes family.”

Someone chose me to be his family.  This knowledge has finally sunk in, and I could not be happier.

The Girl Who Cried “Change” July 25, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in annoyances, meee, realizations.
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I have always wholeheartedly believed that if a person is defensive when insulted, a nerve has been struck.  If someone were to call me say, stupid, I wouldn’t pay any attention because I know I’m not stupid, and clearly the person saying it doesn’t know me very well.

But one word that has ALWAYS struck a nerve?  Hypocrite.

I’m annoyed by people who say one thing and do another.  People who rant at length about their problems and come to solutions they declare will become their new way of life and yet you and everyone else listening knows things will never change.

It wasn’t until this past week that I realized I am, 100%, one of those people.

I believe that actions speak louder than words.  Yet I constantly find myself trying to talk my way out of problems and situations I am unhappy with.  My father has always said I should be a lawyer because I can argue, rationalize and talk my way out of anything.  I can justify any action I take, just give me a few hours and a couple nods.

Example:  I got excited about remodeling things in our house, like the bathrooms and kitchen.  So excited that I looked for a cabinet refacing company online, and found one in my area that does free home estimates.  I sent them M’s email and phone number, (because I think men deal with men much more easily) and when they called, M scheduled an appointment but he was upset with me over it.  Shocked by his reaction, I asked what the problem was, and he said that this is a company with workers who are trying to make money and run a business, and I was wasting their time because we don’t have the money right now and likely won’t be able to start on the kitchen until next summer.  I stubbornly protested that they offer free estimates, they can’t expect every house they visit to immediately sign, and I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

A guy came over to do the estimate, and when I told him we were just beginning to check around and see what prices are like, he was angry.  He didn’t yell or say anthing, but it was pretty obvious.  And M had that “told you so” look on his face after the guy left.  And I truly felt guilty, had a knot in my stomach and wanted to rush after the guy and apologize for wasting his time.  So what did I do?  I spent a good ten minutes justifying it, giving M and his sister the reasons I listed above.  M’s sister agreed with me, which is actually what gave me pause.  I think she is extraordinarily selfish, so for her to think I did the right thing was stomach churning.

Another example?  Relates to yesterday’s post.  I told my sister everything about M’s confession and planned proposal and she immediately yelled at me for ruining what could have been a wonderful surprise for me and a special moment for him because I had to push.  She said I’m like our mother, that I nag and I’m selfish and always have to get my way, no matter what anyone else’s side is.  And then she told our father that I’m pressuring M into marriage and he is going to end up resenting me.  My dad asked me about is this morning, and warned me that men don’t like to be pushed and I should have waited for him to ask.

I feel a larger, more intricate knot over this predicament.  But overall, I think they’re right.  My problem is not that I NEEDED to know when M is going to propose, or that I NEEDED to know the price to remodel our kitchen.  My problem is that my execution for every whim I have is sloppy and the dismount is usually appallingly awful because I have no patience and find it difficult to have faith in others intentions.  I push because I want other people to want the same things I do.  And if they don’t, I try to convince them to see things my way.  And if they come over to my side out of sheer OH MY EFFING LORD, ANYTHING TO SHUT THIS WOMAN UP, I justify why I was right all along.  I love to plan, but I never manage to follow through on anything really.  And I just end up looking like an insincere, immature moron who has no idea what she wants.

I’m coming to the realization that if you are right about something, you won’t have to justify it.  Not to yourself, and not to anyone else.  And it’s better to change quietly and have your actions speak for you, than to rant at length and then have your actions come up short.

Spoiler Alert July 24, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in M.
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It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I have been eager to get engaged pretty consistently for the past year.  I’m not sure exactly why it hit, but I peruse wedding photo blogs and think of my wedding vows in bits and pieces and may have even picked out a dress and potential location.

When I have brought up marriage to M, he has stated, in no uncertain terms, that he is not ready.  And won’t be for a while.  When pressed for a timeline of some sort, he’s sort of shrugged, looked uncomfortable and said he doesn’t really have one.  At first I was just quietly disappointed.  Then a friend got married.  Then M’s brother got engaged.  Then M’s sister got married.  And suddenly I was thinking about it more than ever, wondering why M wasn’t thinking about it, and feeling generally hurt.

Now, granted this is all a big fat case of putting the horse before the cart because we do still live with his mother and sister, and the housing market is still staying stubbornly low so we cannot sell our house and have no idea when we can, so we’re pretty much stuck for the time being.  I’m also not finished with school, and just got an entry-leved job in the career I think I want to go into.  M is done with school, but is looking for another job and would like to make more money.  Realistically?  We’re not ready.

But emotionally I am, and want to talk about it.  To have some idea of when it will happen.  And, most importantly, to know he is looking forward to it just as much as I am.

We’ve been on the exact same page for the entirety of our relationship, starting from just wanting to have fun, nothing serious, to realizing “oops, I accidentally fell head over heels in love with you”, to being committed 100% to each other and deciding to move in together.  It’s been mutual every step of the way, up until the topic of marriage came up.

Or so I thought.

Now, M made it seem like he wouldn’t be ready until we are maybe 30.  (Well, when he is 30 and I am 29.)  Which means we will have been “dating” for twelve years before getting married.  Which maybe shouldn’t matter, but I find it RIDICULOUS and nauseating.  Why the hold up??  We love each other, we live together, we know it will happen eventually, so what gives?

I’ve grown increasingly frustrated and a few months ago reached a point where I thought ‘okay, if it’s going to be SIX YEARS until we get married, I’m gonna cross some things off my little bucket list in the meantime.’  I told him over dinner one night that I think we should take a step back from being so serious and we should both pursue other interests and dreams before we settle into marriage.  He wants to move to El Salvador to work after we sell the house.  I would love to live in New York or see if I can live in Europe for a year or two.  I told him that maybe this only means we are better suited for each other than we thought because we can pursue these dreams while having a long-distance relationship and come together in the end feeling happy, fulfilled and ready to be married.

Oddly, he kind of panicked and rejected this concept.  He said that he wanted us to stay together, long-distance was a bad idea, open relationships (also brought up to ponder) is an even worse idea, and we might end up just selling the house and moving to an apartment anyway so lets not talk about this future stuff yet.

We got into a fight last weekend, and somehow the topic of him not looking forward to marrying me came up (how womanly of me :D).  I was near tears as I told him that I never thought I would get married, that it was a tradition for masochistic suckers and fools.  That getting past my parents horrible example to the point where I actually LOOKED FORWARD to marrying someone was a flat out miracle, and that the only bump in the road to happiness being that the person I want to marry is DREADING marrying me?  Just a tad hurtful.

And he took a deep breath and said “look.  I wanted this to be a surprise, and you’re ruining it for yourself…”

And proceeded to tell me his plan to propose.  When and where.  And the plan?  Is perfect.  It’s what I hoped but never hinted at because I knew if he paid any attention at all he would know it is how I want it to be.

I probably should have stopped him from saying the details because I would have loved the surprise factor of it.  But I’m actually quite fine without a total surprise.  I don’t mind spoilers for TV shows or books, and while this is my actual life, just knowing there is a plan at all?  And he’s been “thinking about it for a while”?  I’ve been over the moon since he told me.

Iit won’t happen for a while, as our present is still exactly the same.  But I’m suddenly so excited about the future that, up until a couple weeks ago, seemed uncertain and kind of bleary.

My morning so far: July 21, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in Uncategorized.
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Bad: I did something seriously painful to my leg this morning and am now limping.

Good: FREE PASTRY DAY AT STARBUCKS, WOO HOO!!

Bad: I’m not supposed to be having pastries of any kind.

Good: But now I don’t have to buy lunch😀

Good: I was early enough for work to have time to stop by Safeway and get yogurt.

Bad: I got lost on the way out and ended up late for work. (Damn you DC and your one way streets!) Good: I don’t think anyone noticed.

Bad: I dropped a permanent marker on my favorite scarf and it now has an ugly mark that I seriously doubt will come out.

All by 8:30 AM. I need a nap.

Just like I would never actually CALL my mother Voldemort… July 20, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in M, realizations.
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I’ve often found it remarkable that there are people in our lives who we encounter briefly or who we dislike, but things they have said or qualities they possess pop into our minds more often than those we care deeply for or see every day.  Some of the most random, seemingly insignificant things can be the most haunting.  Why is this?

I believe I’ve written here before about my relationship with my mother, or lack thereof.  Clearly a mother, in most cases, is not a person with an impact one could consider brief.  I see the effect my mother’s behavior has had on my siblings, how it has molded their tempers and behavior in relationships.  They both speak to her much more frequently than I do and are less tolerant of her outbursts.  I feel that I have internalized harsh words and the marriage between my parents as more of a case study.

The conclusions I reached were obvious and simple; name-calling and the use of nothing but “I” and “you” when trying to sort out differences of opinion are bad.  Violence escalates.  Yelling makes everything seem worse than it probably is.  Bringing up old fights in new fights is not only counter-productive, but annoying and frustrating for both parties.

You can never “unsay” anything.  Even if you apologize, the damage is done.

Once you learn something, you can never “unlearn” or “unknow” it.  And some things are better left unsaid, no matter how true they may be.  That the truth doesn’t set you free because words can hurt, especially toward and from those we claim to love the most.

For the most part, my relationship with M has been…not fight-free or angst-free or frustration-free.  We argue and bicker and fight like any normal couple.  But he comes from parents who fought in silence.  If one got mad, they would ignore each other (sometimes for months) until the feelings passed.  My parents were, clearly, the opposite.  No insult was left unsaid.  Their only regrets were the really amazing comebacks and names that were thought of after the fact.

M fights like his parents.  The surest way I can tell he is angry is if he doesn’t respond when I speak to him and leaves the room when I enter it.  It’s a bit annoying, sure.  Okay, that’s not true.  It’s HELLA frustrating and I’ve often reached the point of getting in his face and asking him if he’s seven.  But he has never called me a name.  Never yelled at me.  Never hit or pushed.  Never said anything that wasn’t true, just out of spite or anger.

I on the other hand…  I try my best.  I really, really do.  I know myself well enough to tell when the mean words and biting insults are brewing and popping up on the tip of my tongue.  We got into an argument on Saturday over something domestic and stupid; he cleaned the bathroom for the second time in a row, which I thought was the plan after I cleaned the kitchen during the week while he napped on the couch.

The thing about M not explicitly stating why he’s angry has actually been something of a bonding experience.  Because he won’t tell me when I ask him, I’m forced to guess.  He’s very Dumbledore-esque about wanting me to figure things out for myself so fights can also be learning experiences.  And because I’m forced to use subtle hints and re-trace my steps, I’ve gotten to know him almost telepathically.  I need to argue, need to talk it out in order to move past fights.  He would rather ignore me until he’s just not mad anymore.  So, I end up basically arguing with myself right in front of him.  I state his side, waiting for almost imperceptible nods or head-shakes, and then begin my defense.

We went out for dinner as planned after I realized he was angry about having to clean the bathroom and I was PISSED.  Didn’t I clean the whole kitchen, which wasn’t even my mess!, while he SLEPT???  Did I get angry? Did I say a word? NO!  And wasn’t is agreed that he would clean the bathroom anyway??  HOW DARE HE!  I am NOT his goddamn MAID!

The point of this extremely tedious post (my sincere apologies and thanks if you’ve made it this far!) is that I had *ahem* other…thoughts…too.

The mean, nasty thoughts that would feel SO! GOOD! to say at the time. You’ve convinced that they’re true, they’re warranted, they’re deserved.  The pain you would cause with these words is going to be the sweetest justice you dole out this week.

I told M one of them.  One of the nicer ones, mind you, but a very nasty thought.  I regretted it immediately, eyes-welled with tears, reached across the table to grab his hand and apologize profusely.  This was about more than hurting my best friend and love of my life in a moment of anger.  This was my mother’s lessons coming to the forefront of my mind and me being weak enough to resort to a quick fix for ME and MY frustration, instead of what is best for US, as partners who would very much like to spend every day together, til death do us part, without needing to forget careless words in order to do so.

With Harry Potter fresh in my mind, I’m reminded of a quote from Dumbledore to Harry; “it isn’t how you are alike.  It’s how you are not.”

I realize I’m comparing my mother to VOLDEMORT, which seems…well, oddly appropriate at times.  But that quote encapsulates perhaps the most important lesson of my young life.

And I say “young life” because I don’t imagine I will spend the rest of my life trying not to be my mother, trying not to have a relationship as destructive and loveless as the one my parents have.  The fact that I knew, through my anger and pride, that my mean, horrible thoughts were not necessary, means I have already distinguished myself from her.  No matter how right or justified or true these thoughts probably were at the time, saying them out loud would not help either one of us.  We both have flaws and constructive criticism can help anyone, if applied correctly.

The difference between my mother and I is that I understand that the best love is unselfish and compromises.  And that difference makes, well…all the difference.  Not in the end, but in every day.

Nerd Pride June 19, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in books & movies & shows, to friend or not to friend.
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I am going to the beach for July 4th weekend with M’s sister and some of her friends, so they decided that we should get together and discuss money, transportation, etc. for the trip.  We had a bbq the other weekend, which two friends of M’s sister who have somewhat become friends of mine, attended.  One of the friends is reading the Twilight series, which I am a fan of.  We delved into a discussion about the last book and were almost immediately teased.  M’s sister brought up that I am currently re-reading the Harry Potter series, and said that she sees me reading every night into the wee hours and that she just doesn’t understand how anyone could like reading that much, or like to read “those books.”

My initial response was ‘what a close-minded idiot.’ I expected everyone else there to scoff at her and tell her that both series are actually quite enjoyable and that reading is awesome.

Instead I was greeted with a chorus of jeers and derogatory questions about what I could possibly see in reading, that it’s something done only by losers with nothing better to do and nerds.

Ahem…

Nerd [nɚd] is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests rather than engaging in more social or popular activities. Therefore, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by peers or will tend to associate with like-minded people.

Now, maybe I am a little strange, but this definition makes me beam with pride.  I have been teased, called “four-eyes” and “loser” and “nerd girl” for as long as I can remember by people I genuinely just rolled all four of my eyes at and regarded as utter morons who were jealous because their imagination didn’t stretch as far, and thought ‘wow it must really suck to be that dumb’ so I would just cock my head and give a sympathetic look instead of crying like they so obviously wanted.

I spent my formative years feeling different and like an outcast.  And I’ve spent the last decade feeling a kinship with those who don’t think it’s weird to look forward to new releases and to read your favorite book until it’s so worn that pages start falling out and you’re forced to buy another copy.  Who don’t find it strange for a person’s idea of fun to be perusing Barnes and Noble and used book stores.  Who think a third of every paycheck being spent on books is money well spent.

I know I am not alone in my Harry Potter love and Twilight squee’s because JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer are millionaires several times over.  Rowling is actually a billionaire.  Plus the stories are so difficult to put down!!  Harry Potter is so. freaking. GOOD!!

I tried explaining this to bitch-faces and little giggles that brought me back to middle school.  I was outnumbered and immediately defensive, telling two of the girls who are expecting that I realize it’s obviously too late for them to develop any kind of interest in something other than themselves, but that the people I really feel sorry for are their children.  Not only with they likely be illiterate until they begin school and are forced to read, they will probably develop the same close-minded jeering at those who enjoy taking their minds to wonderful places, and that the world will suffer for having more people like that in it.

Needless to say, the beach should be tons of fun.

(Especially when I pull Harry Potter out of my tote and settle in for some much needed beach-reading.  I’m on book 5, and have hardbacks of books 6 and 7, which are kind of huge and very heavy.  DO NOT TEMPT ME BIAS!)

I just want to make it clear that if you do not like to read, that’s fine.  Really it is.  But just as you cannot understand doing something you claim is mindnumbingly boring with your precious spare time, I, and others like me, cannot understand not wanting to read and enjoying it immensely.  There are books that I cannot imagine not reading before I leave this world.  There are times when I cannot sit still at my desk because I am so eager to get back to whatever I was reading in my car before begrudgingly walking to work.

I can promise that I will not question your choice of what to do with your time if you do not make fun of what I decide to do with mine.

As quoted from a most enjoyable movie, “don’t tease me about my hobbies. I don’t tease you about being an asshole.”

Kthnxbai

Maybe I should take a break from my Watchmen obsession… March 29, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in Uncategorized.
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Sometimes M and I have random, comically menacing conversations with each other.  Like tonight, at around 8:30:

M:  Oh crap, I forgot to take money out of the bank so you can do my emissions tomorrow.
Me:  You know, it wouldn’t kill you to say ‘please’ every once in a while.
M:  Psh.  You better.  Or when I come home I’ll spank you.
Me:  Psh.  Try it when I make you walk home.
M:  I’ll get here eventually.
Me:  Yeah, good luck getting in after I change the locks.  You’ll find everyone else standing outside with you.  You’ll all be knocking and begging me to let you in.  And I’ll look down and whisper “No.”

I… March 1, 2009

Posted by Sparkel in meee, meme.
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I am…posting again after a random, unintentional hiatus.
I think…too much.
I know…less than I’d like.
I want…a beach, a notebook, strawberry lemonade, a good pen and unlimited hours.
I have…a pretty fantastic life to be honest.
I wish…it were even more fantastic.  Greedy, I know.
I hate…good things ending and bad things being prolonged.
I miss…Arizona and my biggest concern being whether or not my lunchbox was cool enough for school.
I fear…abandonment as a result of my personality.
I feel…passionately about too many things.
I hear…the things you don’t say.
I smell…stargazer lilies that M gave me.
I regret…nothing.  Everything, good and bad, made me who I am, and I’m pretty fond of me.
I love…love.
I care…too much about things that don’t concern me.
I always…
I am not…
I believe…in magic😀
I dance…to the beat of a different drum.
I sing…loudly and out of tune.

I write…and hope to make a living out of it, but love it regardless.
I win…thumb wars and checkers fairly consistently.
I lose…faith in humanity more often than I’d like.
I never…want to lose hope that all you need is love.
I listen…even when it seems like I don’t.
I can usually be found…reading at Starbucks or Barnes and Noble.
I’m scared of…scaring people away.
I read…anything.
I forget…nothing.  Seriously, I am THE retainer of useless information and every conversation I’ve ever had.
I just…wanna go to Europe.
I am happy about…job prospects, having the basics in life and then some, awesome friends, a wonderful partner and the fact that this year is lookin’ good.

President Barack Obama (SQUEE!) November 5, 2008

Posted by Sparkel in food for thought.
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For as long as I can remember I have felt proud to be an American.

Granted I haven’t been to too many other places, so my perspective of what America is and what it means to its citizens and the rest of the world has been sheltered at best.  In fact, it wasn’t until I began dating M, who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 12, that my patriotism began to waver a bit.

The 2004 election sparked many a political debate between M and I.  Many of the debates were not about the election as much as they were about the U.S. in general.  M is of the opinion that, while he is fortunate for the opportunities this country has given him and his family, the U.S. is faaaar from perfect.

M was born in the midst of the civil war El Salvador experienced from 1980 until 1992.  He was raised in the slums of San Salvador by a mother who was doing her best to care for her five children after her husband fled to the U.S. for fear that he, like so many other men who opposed the government, would be killed.  M did not meet his father until he moved to the states, after his family had been on the waiting list for eleven years.  His eldest brother and sister, who were under 18 when his father first petitioned to bring them to the U.S., were well over 18 by the time they were allowed to move here, so they had to stay.  M’s family moved into a one bedroom apartment and tried their best to learn the language and make ends meet.

When M first told me this story, and recounted stories of his family huddling in a bedroom with no windows for days at a time while bombs were heard from outside, and of hearing guns and witnessing immense poverty, I commented “wow, you must have felt lucky to come here then.”

I will never forget the incredulous, angry look on his face.  He snapped “well, considering the U.S. played a pretty large part in the war, no, not really.  We didn’t have much of a choice.  A lot of people didn’t and still don’t because the country is still recovering in a lot of ways.”

I said “what are you talking about?  It’s not the U.S.’s fault if your country had a civil war.”

He scoffed and said “it is when they sent weapons to the side that served their best interest and looked away while innocent people were massacred.”  He then began to go on a long tirade about South and Central America, the dictators the U.S. has supported, the leaders and opposers they fought against, and the (oftentimes willful) ignorance of the people living in this country who are not taught any of this.  About his personal hero, Che Guevara, the history of Cuba, and the role of the CIA in that.

M is, with the exception of my father, the most intelligent person I have ever known.  He is fair, he is well-read and well-informed on politics and issues.  He is observant.  And he has yet to make an observation that I don’t, in some way, shape or form, agree with or respect.  He was the first person I talked to who felt the opposite way about this country, who saw it more for its faults than its attributes.  And he taught me things, things I had never heard before.  And when I skeptically looked things up expecting to get in his face all “AHA!!!,” he was always, always right.  Some of the most enlightening conversations I’ve had about this country are with him and with my friend Anna, who lived in Russia as a child.  At first I was furiously angry and defensive.  Many arguments ended with M saying “you really need to read more before you form opinions.”

So I began to.  I read newspaper articles from other countries.  I read anti-U.S. opinions.  And while I haven’t agreed with everything, I’ve sadly had to agree with some things.

If you can read “A People’s History of the United States” and not feel just the teeniest bit ashamed, you have a harder heart than me.  I read books by African American authors such as Richard Wright, or Frederick Douglass, and finally went beyond my previous logic of “slavery ended years ago… segregation ended too…what is there to feel angry about?”

The way I feel about this country now is the way I imagine a parent must feel when their child, their pride and joy, who showed all the promise in the world of great things to come, goes away to college, gets hooked on heroin, then comes home to steal your TV and pawn it for drug money.  Would I still love that child?  Of course.  But would I feel proud?  Would I look on and say “aw, what a swell kid!  Look how determined she is to make money!”

No.

But if that child began to reform.  Began to behave better.  Began to do the right thing, I would be proud again.

I am not proud that this country has a history of helping those who serve its best interest.  I am not proud of the war in Iraq.  (And I have three cousins who have served there, one of whom is going to Afghanistan next year, so don’t tell me it’s because I don’t support the troops.  I very, very much do.)  I am not proud of how long this country, and the UN has half-assed its support while Darfur has been ravaged by genocide, something the Geneva Convention is supposedly vehemently against.  I am not proud of the many who declared that Barack Obama would not make a good president, but instead is a man to fear because he is supposedly Muslim.  I am not proud of the many who feel that “redistribution of wealth”=socialism, and complain about the tax cut they’ll see when they already make more than their share.  If Warren Buffet and even Oprah, who will pay one helluva lot more in taxes under Obama’s plan than you or me or anyone else thinks it’s good enough for them, then holy fucking hell, it’s good enough for me.  I am not proud of the greed.  I am not proud of the arrogance.  I am not proud of the racism.  I am not proud of the declarations of “i’M MORE AMERICAN THAN YOUUUU, NEENER!!”

I am proud of this country because I am free, and I feel free.  I feel proud of this country for selfish reasons, number one being that I like my life.  I have a house, enough food, an education, and open doors.  I recently read about Rafael Trujillo, the former dictator of Dominican Republic who severely oppressed his people, and all I could think was “I feel so lucky that I can’t even imagine what that would be like.”  I feel proud of this country because of the aid it offers to those in need around the world.  I feel proud of this country for how we stood together after 9/11.  I feel proud of this country for the strides we’ve made, for the progress we’ve made.

And I now feel more proud of this country than I have in a while because my children will never think it’s strange that a black man is president.  I was filled with hope and pride throughout Obama’s campaign.  I agree with his policies, I admire his reserved nature and his desire to learn and listen and ask questions, and I think he will be one helluva good president.  I beamed with pride when I voted for Obama yesterday, I sobbed with joy when he became our new president, and I grinned like a fool when I saw pictures and footage of the world celebrating with us.

I’ve come full circle, and for today I am 100% proud to be an American.

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