A Love Letter To America

What does it mean to be truly independent? What does it mean to be ME?

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Being back in the city that I grew up in after 10 years has me thinking about the time I left. It has been a decade since I started on this journey. I love to describe my younger self as an ‘anywhere-but-here’ girl but as the years have passed, as I have let wisdom take over, I learned to attribute this sentiment to my desire to stand on my own rather than blaming my rebellious self.

I knew America is the ‘land of the free’ but I wasn’t prepared for what it really entailed, the price that freedom demanded. For a girl from an Indian suburb, the only daughter of her overprotective, squarely middle-class parents, I led a safe, sheltered life. Going to the US gave me everything I ever wanted. And all I ever wanted was an opportunity to practice being me.

I sound so naïve right now but listen to me.

When I got to Texas, though I had lived a privileged life in India, converting INR to USD quickly reminded me of the reality that I had to earn my keep. I admire that the kids in the US learn how to earn from an early age. I didn’t really grow up with that mindset. I was provided with everything I ever needed, within our means of course. But I had never worked for any of it. So I had to learn the process of earning money, paying for necessities, saving, and then buying something for myself because I ‘deserved’ it.

It’s funny how late in life I learned that. Though I never had to pay overdraft fees, I made some mistakes, checked them, and got better at money management. I wouldn’t have developed this skill if I went from living under my parents' roof to a cohabit situation with a husband (best case scenario) which is the most likely path my life would have taken in India.

When I got my first apartment after school, I was so happy. I was an adult, a functioning member of society. I didn’t want anyone to infringe on my independence, and so I wanted to see if I could live by myself. I managed well. I was arrogant. In my quest for independence, I cemented the notion in my head that I could never ask for help. And I needed a lot of help my first year — I needed someone to drive me to my surgeries, I needed someone in the hospital rooms, I needed someone to lean on when I had second-degree burns and I needed someone to be near me when I got into my accident.

But I learned to rely on myself. I learned that I am more capable of handling life situations. Though I may act like I am a mountain capable of standing on my own, I am but a human. I would have never learned to weather life calamities on my own because you are always surrounded by people in India.

When I bought my first house, though it was new construction, the house sometimes had issues. The first morning after I had moved in, the water heater wouldn’t work. I called the plumber and he showed me that light was off. I had paid $70 for a really stupid mistake. There was always a person at our disposal in India for all of these jobs. I never saw my parents fixing things around the house. I didn’t have the instinct to look around and understand the situation. My instinct was to call a guy.

I decided I am not going to be clueless and learned how to google. I was never handy and worked in IT but that was the day I learned how to be resourceful. I learned the basics of wiring in the house, how to build and fix furniture and when to call professionals.

The process of learning how to be independent also taught me that independence doesn’t mean any dependence on anyone else. It’s not a solitary existence. It means that I had to rely on my instincts first. True independence doesn’t mean being able to do anything with no repercussions. I started by thinking that I wanted no oversight, no accountability for my actions. But what I wanted was the confidence to be myself, to own my actions, and to make my decisions.

And I guess I could have learned these lessons anywhere. But you know what’s great about America? No one gives a shit. I don’t mean that Americans don’t care. I mean that you really are free to do whatever you want to do. From where I come, life is dictated by one principle — what will people say. The pressure of acting perfect for society nearly broke me. I was so lost trying to fit in. And I didn’t. I took myself out of that equation and changed my location. I kind of got what I wanted. I found my voice in the US.

When you are allowed to do whatever you can, and you still come out the other side with a version of yourself that you could be proud of, I think that’s an achievement.

I am proud of the person I have become today. I am still learning and I am still trying to find my place but I also know I don’t have to fit in. I exist as my own entity and that is enough.

Thank you, America, for helping me find my voice. Love you, miss you.

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You might also want to check out this amazing writer Adrienne Beaumont:

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Prachi Mule

Prachi Mule

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Having a voice matters. I am passionate about empowering lives through these voices.