Monday, March 09, 2009

Living the American Dream

Today is a big day for the Candid family. On this day waaay back in 1985 Candid Mama, Candid Dad, Lil’ Bro and yours truly stepped off an airplane and onto American soil for the first time ever. We arrived at our new home with a few suitcases a piece, all our worldly possessions pretty much left behind, ready to start a new life.

Grandma O and Grandpa Frank had made the same move several years before, and it was now time to bring the rest of their family over. This wouldn’t be the first time our family had started all over in a new country. In fact, we sort of have a history of doing just that. Our entire family left Portugal for Angola (that’s in Africa, in case you’re wondering) for the chance of a better life.

It was in Luanda, Angola that my mom grew up and met my dad (also a Portugal transport from youth), there they fell in love and were married. It was also in Luanda that I was born.

I’ll skip over the stories of paradise turned war zone for now, though maybe one day I’ll tell you the tales I’ve been told my whole life, but I will tell you that when I was 8 months old we once again started over. Leaving everything behind, taking practically a clandestine flight with only a few suitcases in hand, my parents fled the war torn country back to Portugal.

And that is where I lived until I was nearly 10 years old. It was with stars in my eyes, dreams of streets paved in gold and the American dream that we packed up and started all over again on the day before my 10th birthday.

I have now lived in the U.S. for 24 years. More than double the amount of time I lived in Portugal. This has been my home for my formative years. My adolescence, my teens, my twenties, and now, my 30’s. I became an American citizen at 15, and I’ll tell you right now, I am incredibly proud to call this place my home.

I’m well aware of the issues and problems we face as a nation, and I’m not blind to corruption and problems of not just our government but our society as a whole. I learned very soon after arriving here that the streets were not only not paved in gold, but having arrived here at the end of the winter, potholed and barely paved at times. I learned that you didn’t come to America and have instant wealth, success and fame. The stars in my eyes were quickly diminished to flickers which would sparkle now and then, between the flashes of reality.

But the American dream? It absolutely exists. However, you have to work for it.

I will tell you right now that there is nothing that disgusts me more than people who feel they are entitled. My parents moved here without a penny to their names, and barely speaking the language. They worked hard, they went to school, and they struggled. To this day my parents are two of the hardest working people I know. And they instilled in my brother and me the knowledge that you can absolutely have anything you want out of life, but it’s not going to be handed to you, you need to go out there and get it, work for it, struggle even in order to attain it.

They haven’t had it easy, but no matter how tough times were, we (their kids) never went without the important things. They went for their citizenship as soon as they were able to, making my brother and me citizens by default because we were still under the required age to inherit citizenship from them. They bought their first house when I was still in high school, and made it our home. They still struggle, and the American dream has seemed like a nightmare at times, I’m sure, but they love this country for the opportunities it has afforded if not them, us, their kids.

And I? I am not afraid to tell you that I took full advantage of this land of opportunity. One of the first in my family to get a college education (second only to Grandma O, who was a teacher herself), I worked hard to make the right choices for myself. I became a homeowner, by myself, at 28. Now, 6 years later, I live on my own, provide for myself, and live about as close to the American dream as you can get in this economy. I won’t lie to you, it hasn’t always been easy, and I have struggled just like anybody else to make ends meet, but it is always worth it.

The life I am able to lead, even in the tough times when I don’t know how I’m going to do it, is not one I’d be able to live back in Portugal. And I don’t ever take that for granted. The freedoms I have been granted here as a woman, a single woman at that, don’t go unnoticed. I vote every chance I get, and yes, I support our new President and believe he can set us on the right path. I am hopeful, but realistic.

I won’t get into my personal feelings about our economic crisis and everything else, because this is not that kind of post. But I will say this, as bad as it gets, Americans need to realize how much better we still have it than a lot of other nations, and that we’ve been taking it for granted for far too long, and we need to wake up and take responsibility for ourselves. Nobody is entitled to anything, and I think sometimes we forget that.

All I know is that I plan to live out my life here in the good old U.S. of A., so I have no choice but to have hope things will get better, and there is no option but to be grateful that I live here.

Yes, I’m a sappy patriot. And damn proud of it.

Happy Anniversary Candid Family!

1 comment:

Pamela said...

happy anniverary!