I Paid $5,000 for This American Flag

If you follow me on social media, then what I’m about to share may not surprise you. For everyone else, I suppose I have the luxury of building up some degree of suspense.

In August, I wrote about my long deliberation regarding whether or not I should file for my U.S. citizenship. I discussed my qualms and the reasons for my hesitation. One big reason was a feeling of pursuing citizenship out of fear instead of an actual desire to be American.

Many immigrants struggle with this as they progress through the immigration process. If they hated the countries and the lives they left behind, then assimilation is easy and deserting their original home countries requires no second thought.

That’s not the position I was in. I love Jamaica with all its flaws and idiosyncrasies and I will always miss the island life. This made my decision a lot more difficult.

The Struggle

To add to this, immigration policies and general political sentiment were not in my favour. I lost a lot of sleep worrying about my immigration paperwork as I encountered delay after delay. I wondered how much more money I would have to pay and how much more waiting would be involved before I put this in-limbo phase behind me.

I have a car, a home, a business, a pet, and my family here. If my paperwork was rejected for some reason, where would that leave me? This question so plagued me all the way back in 2018 that it became my goal to make my business 100% location independent. That way, if Uncle Sam did kick me out, my income came with me. I achieved that by the start of 2019.

Still, I fretted. The more I fretted was the more I accepted that finances and familial relationships were not my only reasons. I genuinely enjoy living in America. I am no fan of people in the Southeast, but the country itself is beautiful and its complex inner workings are fascinating.

I love the sheer size of it. Most of all, I look forward to the opportunities to escape into the desert out West and up to the fiery New England fall in the North — the two regions where you’re most likely to run into the nicer and more welcoming Americans.

The Process

By the time I applied, I was decided. America was home now and it was time to plant those roots and move forward. The process that followed was not easy. After returning from my California desert trip, Uncle Sam informed me that I had my civics test coming up. This was the first update I had received on my paperwork since 2018 when I applied to renew my residency.

My green card has been expired since September 2018, forcing me to use a flimsy piece of paper from USCIS stating that I am here legally on an extension. I don’t need to tell you how often this gets closely scrutinized and the hassle it creates when I travel.

Then, December came and I went in bright and early to do my civics test. After waiting for three hours, the floor supervisor sent me home with new requirements that were not listed on the letter I received. I had only two days to get everything together.

I had moved all my work to the end of the week to get that day free, and now I had that work to do while preparing all over again for a test and their new requirements. That sleeplessness grew worse. My family did their best to reassure me that it would all work out, but not only was I frustrated: I was furious.

The Results

When I went back the second time, I felt deflated. I had stayed up all night working and barely finished in time. Then, I drove through hail and Atlanta morning traffic to make it to the rescheduled appointment.

Still, I passed the test with flying colours and went home. Everyone was excited, but not me. I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that they would ask me to do something else, present something else, or tell me they had changed their minds again.

“You’re a citizen, now!” Mom declared.

I scoffed and went to bed.

A week later, I received a letter telling me to come in for my swearing-in ceremony. I put the letter under the tree as my Christmas present from Uncle Sam and went back to work.

“Aren’t you excited?” one of my friends asked me.

“After what happened the last time; no. I’ll believe they’re serious this time when I’m actually sworn in.”

Well, on January 10th of 2020, I officially became a United States citizen with all its rights and responsibilities.

Moving Forward

I would love to tell you that I’m finally excited, but it still hasn’t quite sunken in yet. It came 10 days after my biggest client effectively banned me from moving to California. The email came in on New Year’s Eve, killing a plan that had been 12 months in the making, on the brink of its implementation.

Until this is sorted, and I figure out what my next move is, I find that I think of little else. Now, I have sleepless nights for a whole new reason. I’m not anxious, per se, but I find that I must balance making money with making new plans. How does one recreate a plan that is 12 months old in 14 days, at the time when the ball was supposed to start rolling?

That’s the current dilemma I’m faced with. As I said before, my 2020 is off to a challenging start. On the bright side, my greatest worry is now behind me. Uncle Sam is officially my adoptive Daddy and he’ll have a hard time trying to get rid of me now!

The Lessons

One of the things that I find most interesting about USCIS field offices is how different the culture is, compared to the federal and political side of USCIS. The motto displayed at the Atlanta office is not, “In God We Trust.”

Instead, it’s the original American motto, and, the one of the two that I personally espouse. It says:

Out of Many, One.

This was further addressed at the ceremony, where the host shared his own experience as the third-generation immigrant of a German who fled persecution in Russia. He reminded us all that while America was our new home and we owed her our allegiance, we should never forget where we came from. We should make it our duty to spread our original cultures within the American population, because we are stronger together, not apart.

These are truly the words of a fellow immigrant or immigrant descendant. I don’t think most Americans hold this view. But, I hope that in time, more people begin to understand what it’s like to straddle the line between homeland and home country. Put simply, I paid for this American flag with $5,000 in cash and five years of blood, sweat, and tears — but there is still a country that once gave me hers for free.

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46 thoughts on “I Paid $5,000 for This American Flag

    1. I’m still leaving in the spring, just to a different location. Still driving across the country as well. I need to work through the details though and finalize a few things.

      Honestly, I’m all out of tolerance for these obstacles.

      1. I’ve been hearing that from Blacks there. They all seem to want to leave. I was very surprised.

      2. The one African American neighborhood which had survived has now been completely gentrified and the residents scattered. The deep history of Oregon is appallingly racist.

      3. Well, then! It will be nowhere on my backup list of Western States! I would love to see Portland with my own eyes though.

  1. Wowwww!!!! Welcome Sis!!! Congrats on being sworn in!!! Now no more headaches with carrying around all that paperwork. I hate that they came up with one last thing for you to do and get. I think that was deliberate, I feel they give everyone the hardest time in those situations because they want them to give up but you persevered!! & I’m so proud of you. I would have been a little salty too though! It really was a great x-mas gift. Now, California? Oh Gosh, I’m going to be praying. Surely these early bumps in the road are making for smooth sails later. Congrats again!!! xoxoxo

    1. Thanks, Roshonda! I’m glad to get that out of the way as well. I still have to update all my current documents (driver’s license etc), so it’s not 100% done but the actual citizenship process is behind me.

      Yes, the California thing was a huge blow, especially right on New Year’s. I’m salvaging my old plan to make a new one. Getting things in order, but it’s still a go to move in the spring. Just a different location!

      Hopefully it’s a sign of smooth sailing in the future for real. I’m running out of tolerance for these things.

      1. I understand Sis about the tolerance. The older I get my tolerance level gets worse. I’m glad things are still a go for California even if it is a different location, that’s a sign that things are still moving “forward” Yeah, the drivers license and etc should be easy. Each state has different laws, hopefully you don’t have to take that pesky drivers test. Cheers to things continually moving “UPward!”

      2. Things are still a go for out west, not California. I can’t live within state lines, but I’ll still be close by. 🙂

        I hope I don’t have to take a new driving test either. Even if I do though, my car is tiny and I can fling that baby anywhere. Easy pass! 🤣

        Will keep you guys updated as soon as I make another solid move. Right now, it’s mostly prep work.

    1. What a present indeed. Dem come mash up my dolly house. Kmt. 😭

      How can I ever forget Jamaica? Trust me, I’ll continue to be othered while here. Citizenship is a piece of paper to a lot of Americans. It won’t stop rednecks from seeing me as an immigrant stealing their jobs. 🤣 That’s why I’m escaping to out west where I’m welcome!

      I hope it does make travel easier. 🙂

  2. welcome to america…now go home! lol just teasing. congrats!

    “I would love to tell you that I’m finally excited, but it still hasn’t quite sunken in yet. It came 10 days after my biggest client effectively banned me from moving to California.” WTF!!!!???? this is outrageous!!!! you are not a child!!!

    1. Thank you! Happy to have the process behind me now. ☺️

      They’re trying to stay clear of AB5. Not sure if you heard of it already, but it’s that law Cali passed to protect contractors working as truck drivers, Amazon delivery drivers, Lyft drivers and Uber drivers. It’s very broad, so it kind of sweeps in and encloses all contract workers and complicates things for the rest of us. My client basically said go if you want but the contract would be immediately terminated. Needless to say, it’s been a rough 2 weeks of scrambling to adjust my plan.

    1. Buahahahaha!! I can’t believe you remembered that word! 🤣 I’m so proud of you! 🤧

      Best. Welcoming. Ever.

      1. I just love your appreciation for life. It’s the little things… Btw, you’ll love it here out west. Cali is awesome, but too busy for my liking. I’m in a mountain cabin up in NE Washington state. Tranquilo.

      2. *blushes* Thanks, Jim. I strongly believe in thriving and not surviving. Let’s hope I can pull that off this year!

        Cali is busy, but there are quiet spots. Where I was moving to was a small town. Joshua Tree has a population of about 8,000. Next door is 29 Palms, which has a population of about 26,000. Very quiet, very serene place. It’s what I loved about it.

        I’ve only passed through Washington before on my way to Alaska. Are the winters as horrible as I imagine they are? I was pretty set on staying in the Sunbelt!

      3. The winters are bad enough! Two feet of snow at my house right now. I’m supposed to be staying at our Panama house in the winters but life has different plans for me at the moment. I have some good friends that winter in Joshua Tree. They absolutely love it!

      4. Joshua Tree got its fair bit of snow these past 2 years, so it seems there’s no escaping it! 🤣 2 feet though?? That’s too much for me!

      5. Just think of the book you could write “The Frozen Caribe”—Alexis at 7° below. If you could only quit shivering!

  3. Congratulations on your American citizenship. I am so glad that after such a lengthy struggle and worry it has finally been resolved! You’ve earned it! As for all other challenges that 2020 may bring, I’m sure you will also come up trumps, as always. You are a fighter and a winner and I am certain you will conquer all. All the best. ❤

    1. Thanks Fatima! “Lengthy struggle” is about right. This has not been an easy road. After getting turned away that first civics test morning, I honestly considered giving up the whole thing.

      As for the other challenges, I’m doing my best to replan as I go along. Planning while executing is a dangerous game to play, but there are aspects of the old plan to fall back on, so away we go!

      Thanks again. ☺️

    1. Thank you! I think you’re an excellent state too! Unfortunately, my client is trying to escape AB5. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it, but it’s a big shake up for the “gig economy”. I suspect other clients will follow that path, so changing one’s mind not accomplish much in the long run.

      1. AB5 was necessary to pass because too many employers were exploiting workers by listing them as contractors so they could keep employing them without paying them benefits, and there are exceptions within the law for certain professions, so it’s probably not as bad as they think it is. For a state that has a reputation for being liberal, we have some very extreme capitalists, which goes all the way back to the 1849 Gold Rush. We are a state of conflicting interests sitting on top of fault lines.
        Hope your having a good day. 🙂

      2. I agree with the law, but some exemptions are necessary. California aimed at the big boys but messed with small fry plans in the process. Hopefully, they’ll make adjustments as time goes by. They have different rules for big versus small companies for almost everything else (minimum wage, etc) so I hope they do the same for this too.

      3. There is some truth in that, but there’s no denying they’ve been targeting those big businesses recently and with good reason. Facebook, Google and Uber are 3 of the ones they’ve been trampling on recently.

      4. I did! Google sends me all the news updates for California. My client also feels pretty confident that further changes will be made. We’ll see. 🙂

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