Leaving Is Believing

Do you want the mashed potatoes or the asparagus?

It is in some ways unreasonable to expect some Americans to fully grasp the nuance and the challenges of having to choose between loyalty and happiness. Every single immigrant has had to choose between loyalty and happiness. Or as The Clash put it “should I stay or should I go now?” America doesn’t make loyalty and happiness a choice like dinner sides at a restaurant rather its sells an American Dream: if you are loyal to that dream you will achieve happiness.

America is The Big Break. This is like wanting to be an Entertainer and finally getting a chance to be on television. Imagine being hand selected to perform for just 10 minutes on Fallon or Carson or Letterman. If you do this right all these doors bust open but if you blow it you’ll be forced to live a life of anonymity with shame and regret as your roommates. And they don’t do dishes.

For immigrants an “acceptance letter” from America means you give up loyalty for happiness. You are coming to America so you’re giving up your loyalty to your home country, to your hood, to your people and to all the future experiences you would have had if you had stayed. Immigrating means valuing happiness above loyalty.

For immigrants a “rejection letter” from America means…what now? You were prepared to make a sacrifice that you are no longer required to make.

Where do you go now? Especially if your now has limited options and a shallow future.

America is the end of the line: this is as good as it gets. For all the racism, for all the hate, for all the contempt from political leaders…there is still an abundant amount of opportunity and hope and progress that individuals can achieve. You will always have more options in America than you did back home. Immigrants know this but Americans especially know this.

Leaving is not an option.

It’s hard to wrap the mind around the idea of leaving America because where would you go? There are only three countries: America, Canada and the UK. That’s it. Nobody is moving to Kenya…some people might move to Germany or Spain but really if your desire for happiness is strong enough you will come to America or Canada or the UK.

And if you’re in America and it’s not going well? You gut it out. You watch sports and seek inspiration. You work hard and hope that’s enough. You measure yourself against your peers; against other people like celebrities: you complain about what you do not have; what you lack. Sometimes you take your position for granted sometimes you’re thankful. But leaving? That’s not an option. It’s not even considered.
Leaving is not an option.

Yet for citizens in many countries leaving isn’t just an option it’s the start of a long hard journey.

It’s more than just choosing sides from a list of sides. It is opening the menu and identifying what you are hungry for. It is knowing the specials…knowing what your options are and what you can afford.

It is choosing wisely when you’re asked: do you know what you want?


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Also published on Medium.

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