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.
In Hebrew, we say SHALOM both for hello and for goodbye.
And so, it is time to say SHALOM to the Israeli passport – with both a twinge of sadness and with an equal dose of enthusiasm. Any migrant can relate; this moment holds a conscious choice to believe that your new home is better, and to move ahead into your destiny – which makes goodbye easier, but not entirely happy.
It’s like any leap I have watched my clients take. It is beneficial and happy. And it involves loss. To ensure YOUR leap is always as positive as possible, remember Keren’s citizenship day lessons:
1. Arrival fallacy will be reversed when you find gratitude for where you are, and remember where and why you started, and 2. Goodbye is always a new hello.