I became a U.S. Citizen today.
To be honest with you, though it is an awesome moment (more on that in a second) – the experience itself is a giant let-down. You get in a long line, where police officers constantly barrage you about throwing away your water bottle. Then you are separated from loved ones and even worse – from your phone, and sequestered into a large court room in which you will remain seated for four interminable hours. Finally, you get a piece of paper. There is a lovely sermon by a nice judge who seems genuinely pleased to welcome you to America, but that’s about it.
As I left the court house today, I thought that what I am experiencing must be one of the things I love talking about – Arrival Fallacy. The arrival fallacy–a term introduced by positive psychology expert (and fellow Israeli genius) Tal Ben-Shahar in his book Happier–operates on the idea that in the process of working toward a goal, you come to expect that you will in fact reach it. So when you DO reach it, it seldom feels as fabulous as you thought it would.
But then, as I walked home, I had two other thoughts:
1. Though I was not persecuted, I know well what others in that room went through to make it through a naturalization ceremony. This is to say, I DO appreciate this privilege more than words can express.
2. Though my process was seamless, I too once dreamed of living in this wonderful country. And no matter how sterile the ceremony was, this IS a big moment.
In fact, I did not have to reach far to remember that. A few weeks ago, when the letter arrived in the mail congratulating me on becoming a citizen, I jumped up and down like a kid. I remember what it meant to me to get my first work visa, and why I have stayed. This country still – for all its present shortcomings— represents opportunity, promise, freedom and equality— and I choose to see that in the things around me.