Friday, November 7, 2008


Before my first trip overseas, my mom urged me not to be "the ugly American." I brushed up on the French I had learned that year in 8th grade, and I pulled any items with USA emblazoned on them out of closet. When we arrived in Paris during the summer of 1998, the French people we met were generally pretty kind to us. Maybe there was a wee jab here and there about cowboys and what not, but there were no outright discussions of politics or the wrongs America had committed recently. It might've been because I was so young (I turned 14 in Paris that year), but people seemed to respect America.

Seven years later, I embarked on a study abroad trip to Paris. This time, even I didn't like my country very much. We'd elected someone who was literally the embodiment of everything that is the "ugly American," not once, but twice. And when I went, it was just months after Bush's re-election. My, what a difference a President makes. I lived in an international house, and anytime I opened my mouth, I was sure to hear about my country's failing foreign policies, how our culture was taking over everything, how much people resented America. People were comparing us to the Roman Empire and seemed to be rather gleeful as the glow of America's formerly shining beacon of hope, change and prosperity seemed to be dimming. I enjoyed my time in Paris more than words can express, but the political discussions I had left me truly ashamed of what my country had become.

Yet, even as I lived there and listened to people complain about what my country had become, I knew that my story was one that could never happen in any other place but America. I am a black woman from a middle to upper middle class background. Both my parents attended college and have good jobs, I attended college, travelled abroad and had access to amazing opportunities and experiences. Two generations ago, my family members were sharecroppers in the deep South. And through the hardwork and perserverance that personifies the American experience, we achieved what our ancestors had hoped for us. But when I looked around me in France, I didn't see my experience replicated. There were NO people of color at the university I attended, and the only people of color I saw on television were athletes and singers.

So even though the American star had fallen considerably, it could be argued that there was something still there that made us completely capable of turning things around and regaining our former glory.

Two successive extended trips to Europe showed me that people seemed more disappointed than anything else. America has long been the "land of opportunity," yet for the past 8 years, we've been nothing more than a charicature of our worst selves. Warmongering, ignorant and discounting the voice of the world around us. The rest of the world isn't really so different than we are, we all want to believe that America can be better, that we are better than our current situation and that we have been. That for all our boisterous talking, our little bit of arrogance, we are a hopeful bunch who deep down really want to do what's best. Consumption of American pop culture abroad led me to believe that though our star had fallen, many people still wanted to believe or be exposed to the American dream.

And I think that Tuesday night, we became what we were before. There was a reason people were dancing in the streets, wrapped in American flags and singing our anthem. And not just in America, but overseas as well. Because deep down, we all wanted to believe that America is better than what we've been. That we've been down for a long time, but surely, the America that existed before hadn't died completely. People were ready for change.

For the first time in 8 years, I'll go abroad with my head held high, unashamed of my American accent and demeanor, proud that we're living up to our potential and that we collectively are ready to change the direction of the American journey.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I am failing miserably at keeping this updated. But I figured that like millions of other people, tomorrow means that I should write an entry about that day.

I was a senior in high school. And the day began like any other...every school morning since I was in 4th grade, I woke up and turned on the The Today Show (I haven't watched that show since 9/11). That particular morning, I was watching it and whinging about a lost boot. I remember seeing Katie Couric reporting on what was happening, I remember going in to tell my mom that a plan had crashed in the World Trade Center.

I went to school, and in all but my Broadcasting class, we were prohibited from accessing the Internet. My classmates and I crowded around the editing computer and read updates on At lunch, someone had turned the TV on, and we all sat in stunned silence as we watched people jump from the windows of the burning buildings. Shortly after the footage aired, someone shut the tv off and in a room full of 200 or so adolescents, you could've heard a pin drop.

It's almost impossible for 17 to 18 year olds to put their lives into perspective without a catastrophic event serving as a catalyst. 9/11 accomplished that. This happened the 2nd week of school, and all of the giddyness that typically accompanies the beginning of senior year faded quietly into the background as we all realized we were on the brink of war. But this was not the type of war fought by our grandfathers; it was something deeper, stronger, more menacing and infinitely more mysterious. How can you combat a state of mind? How can you fight an enemy that isn't isolated strictly to the borders of one country? The weapons that were used against us weren't bombs or guns, but commercial jet planes. The victims were unarmed; they were passengers on planes, men and women going about their work day. They were civilians. This sort of thing happened overseas, to other people in far off places like Israel. But not in America, not to us. As a country, we had to learn to strike a balance between caution and paralyzing fear. Between recognizing a specific threat and making swift, blanket judgements.

I will never discount just how much that day in September changed the lives of everyone in this country in one way or another, and it is a day we really should never forget. But it frightens me that our leaders, the Republicans in particular, have been unable to move beyond that day in terms of creating policy.

Later in the evening on September 11th, at my mother's urging, I changed the channel to MTV, which had begun airing music videos non-stop. One of the songs I heard was called "Stuck in a Moment" by U2. I was never a U2 fan, but this particular song has always reminded me of 9/11 because I heard it that day, and I felt the lyrics were strangely appropriate. And maybe not so much on that exact day, but now, 7 years later, we as a country still derive much of our foreign policy not from current events, but from that day. We collectively are "stuck in a moment," and until we learn to take lessons from that fateful day, we cannot possibly respond to the threats we as a nation face today.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back from Blighty

I sort of let this thing slip to the wayside. Not that I had any real devoted readers, other than people I sent this link to, but still, I shouldn't have let it go entirely.

In December, I left the country. Which sounds dramatic and like something amazing happened, when really, it was just another step in my seemingly never ending search for fulfillment. I left, ended an almost 2 year-long relationship, encountered all manner of housing and financial troubles, and after 4 soul crushing months, found myself hauling 3 half empty suitcases up the steep stairs to a room in my dad and stepmom's home in rural suburbia. My years old battle with depression reared it's ugly head and for about a week, I lurched from room to room feeling a failure. I got a job, new clothes, replaced most of what had been lost or stolen in the Big Smoke and began my new position.

Truth be told, I never enjoyed graduate school. I tried to like my classes but I never did. I was never fully engaged and in hindsight, I think I knew deep down from the moment I stepped onto the Eastbound plane that what I was doing, where I was going and what I wanted were either not meant to be or weren't going to be found in the manner I thought. I knew that on December 27th in the same way I knew that on April 20th. But I always have to learn things the hard way. Always.

And for a while, the constant nagging voice in my head that tells me this isn't what I want to do, that what I want to do is over there was quieted. I was content. I found a boy who meant the world to me, my job was satisfactory, I had money, I was getting along with my family. But a couple of days ago, something clicked. I don't know what it was or what brought it on, but I felt the need to go.

So I'm back. Searching for something, I don't know what exactly, but looking. I know though that what I want more than anything else is to write. And of the things I learned about myself over the past several months, it's that writing is something I need present in my life. This blog will still be a lot about the awkwardness that is corporate America, but it will also be about the struggles of the uber-cliche but too true rite of passage that is the quarter life crisis.