Friends, I just left Boston after a very short visit with one of my best friends and while there we toured the city’s historic sites on this:
A duck-boat. And while I trust that many of you already know that, our tour guide, captain-talks-too-loud told me I needed to take a picture of said boat because you wouldn’t believe and/or understand what I was talking about when I referenced the majestic sea/land faring vessel. I can only imagine that 98% of you don’t give a rat’s ass about duck-boats or the fact that I appear to be writing a post about one, but I also know y’all are pretty smart, so I was ready to give you the benefit of the doubt. Blame the picture on the captain. At least he saved you a google image search.
But that’s not the point.
The point is this. It occurred to me, as captain-tour-guide-talks-too-loud actually spouted off some interesting historical information, that Boston- on the 4th of July? Kind of a big damn deal. And interestingly enough (I’ll give him minor credit here) July 2nd, the day I was there and riding around the city in that yellow monstrosity, was actually the real independence day for America.
True story. July 2nd was the day that the Second Continental Congress met and voted to approve a resolution for America’s independence from Britain. And the Declaration of Independence (if you’re ever in Boston on the 4th you can hear it read from the Old State House--thanks, tour guide!) wasn’t adopted by the Continental Congress until July 4th, which is why we celebrate when we do. Also, most of the people didn’t even sign until August.
But that’s not the point either.
I’ll admit. I’m not a hugely patriotic person. The most patriotic I’ve ever been was immediately following 9/11 when I lived in London. The ironic thing is, the time in my life I’ve felt the most connected to or protective of my place of birth was the time I was warned against being proud to be an American. I wore a Canadian flag on my backpack as I travelled Europe and when asked, I said I was Canadian. The blanket on my bed was an American flag. My walls were plastered with patriotic cards and postcards. For a year, thousands of miles away from the US, I lived in silent pride of America.
And while there are times I’m thoroughly humiliated by this country--by the lack of tolerance, the abundance of greed, the narcissistic tendencies and the way we are so often viewed by others. At the end of the day, I’ll never not be grateful for what I have by merit of the fact that I was born an American citizen.
I’ll forever be thankful that I can be thirty-two, unmarried and an artist, living by myself in NYC where my little can of mace and whistle are enough to make me feel safe enough to walk alone at night. I’m incredibly lucky to have access to shelter, food, modern medicine and opportunity for employment. I’m grateful that my problems are indeed first world, and that even my biggest problems are pretty damn easy, relatively speaking.
This July 4th is an anniversary for me. It was a year ago that I filed for divorce, that I ended the longest relationship I’ve ever had and by far the toughest one for me to walk away from. It was a year ago that I finally realized that the thing that kept me most tied to an unhealthy relationship had little to do with my husband and everything to do with me.
I was terrified of being alone.
For some reason that realization hurt almost as much as all the crap that had gone down in our marriage. It meant that somewhere along the way I lost an integral part of myself, the part of me that loved being alone, the girl who had been raised to be an independent and strong woman. I lost the kid who insisted on doing everything herself, who decided to take a year off of college to live in London and attend a school where she knew no one, the person who enjoyed living alone and going to movies and dinner by herself, and who never felt the urge to be in a relationship simply to avoid being alone. I wasn’t sure when she’d disappeared just that the fear of being alone trumped my desire to get her back.
But I filed the papers (on July 2nd, actually) and on July 4th I reclaimed my independence. I’d love to say that this country and the fact that I can get divorced, that I can be a single woman, and my abundance of privileges that many women in the world do not have inspired my decision, but they did not. I’m grateful for all those things now, but a year ago I was just so damn sick of myself and not looking or feeling anything like the person I wanted to be that I signed those papers. And the fact that I can is one of the reasons I celebrate today.
The world declaration is a big word that carries a powerful meaning. My declaration of independence may be small compared to America’s Declaration of Independence but my ability to declare my independence is a result of what happened in this country so many years ago. For that I’m grateful.
And if that’s not a reason to be with friends, drink a beer and light a sparkler, I don’t know what is.
Happy 4th of July.