I love the 4th of July. I love America. I love that for at least one day out of the year, we can set aside our political differences and come together with pride to celebrate our country. Our heritage. Being an American, to me, is more than just where I was born. It’s an ownership in the life I lead. A time of gratitude and reflection. Fellowship. Finding a way to observe this holiday is important to me. In general, I love a good theme and any excuse to wear a red, white, and blue bow…but it’s more than that. On Independence Day I want to stop time, take a long hard look at my surroundings and the people who are placed on this earth with me, and ask the hard question. What have I done to make my country a better place to live?
I know we’re not perfect, and I’m certainly not smart enough to try and write a political post, but this is where we are. This is where I live. This is the country, state, city, community, that runs through me. When I was growing up, I didn’t understand. It made me uncomfortable that everyone seemed to know my name, whose child I was, the complete history of my family tree. It made me feel vulnerable, like I was constantly trying to catch up to a certain ideal image of myself that was completely unattainable. I knew early on that as soon as I could leave I would get as far away as possible. I wanted some anonymity. I wanted to redefine myself on my terms. I wanted different.
And so I flew out of the nest at a break neck speed. College in St. Louis and then straight on to New York City. I spent a semester during college studying abroad in Europe. I traveled as much as possible. I accepted acting contracts from Arizona to Florida and anywhere in between that would take me. I worked hard to forge my own little life, trying to make it work as best I could. Meeting friends that would become my family. Learning more about myself every day. Finding pride in my personal independence.
I’m not sure what I wanted independence from. Not my family. I love being a part of our family team. Not my home. Not my little county. Maybe I just needed to feel like just me, alone, was enough. There’s a certain sense of pride that comes with that knowledge, and to be blunt, I think most people are afraid to find out if they are enough for themselves. A lot of humans go through life without pushing themselves to discover what they are truly capable of. They wander around following the easy path set before them without getting to know who they are, what they stand for, where their passions lie. Even thinking about that possibility now, I know that kind of life would have meant a swift and certain death for my soul.
Being able to come to the realization that I was an independent woman also brought the realization that I am so proud of who I come from. During a particularly dark time I remember thinking about the sacrifices made before me. The sacrifices made before anyone ever knew there was ever going to be a me. The sacrifices my great grandparents made to give their family a better life. The sacrifices my grandparents made for their children, which helped shape my parents. The sacrifices my parents made so my sisters and I could go out into the world and live our dreams. Everyone worked too damn hard for me to ever quit on myself. That’s not who I am. That’s not a part of our legacy.
Finding joy deep down in your core, which keeps you rooted to all the elements that make up the different parts of you is just one reason to celebrate the 4th of July. Feeling a sense of honor to those who have gone before you and paved a way for you is another. Taking pride in your personal independence, but giving gratitude to the country that helped make those freedoms possible brings a sense of humility to the celebration. Knowing that if you feel lost, you can return to those who understand who you are because it is who they are adds a sense of peace to this beautiful holiday…and suddenly you are where your heart was born… you are home.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”