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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

America, the Economy, and Where I Belong

This past semester while studying abroad in London, I took a solitary stroll to Westminster Abbey where I stumbled upon the grave of D.H. Lawrence. Seeing his name inscribed in the stone, I thought about some of his eloquent words: “We make a mistake forsaking England and moving out into the periphery of life. After all, Taormina, Ceylon, Africa, America – as far as we go, they are only the negation of what we ourselves stand for and are: and we’re rather like Jonahs running away from the place we belong.
When I first decided to study abroad in England, I believe my decision was based largely on this desire to discover this “periphery of life.” I didn’t think I was abandoning or forsaking anything, certainly not my home and certainly not America. I knew I’d be back (mainly because I had already purchased the ticket for the return flight). But in retrospect, my decision to leave home for a few months had more to do with my desire to leave my old, routine world behind than to experience a new one. I started to get that very feeling when I began to ignore phone calls from my parents, not because I didn’t miss or love them but only because I didn’t want depressing reports of what was going on at home. With London right outside my window, I didn’t want to hear about my mother’s failing small business. Or the fact that my father was fired from a job that he had been working at for the last twenty years. And I certainly didn’t want to know about the possibility of my parents having to sell our beautiful suburban home (because in an economy where home values have declined, that’s just depressing).
So instead, I willingly and completely immersed myself in the British culture – went to pubs, hopped on the tube, and even started taking “holidays” instead of “vacations.” And while taking a class on British visual media, it was easier to distance myself and to see things, even America, from the British perspective. And so it was all too convenient to ignore my family’s strife and struggles and America’s strife and struggles with so much water and land between us.
After returning home this last December, I have watched my father who has had a job every day for the last forty-seven years, ever since he first immigrated to this country at the age of 16, wander around the house not knowing what to do with himself. And I have also seen the extent to which my mother’s business is still somewhat in decline. And so I know that radical and near instant change I had hoped would magically take place in my absence has not occurred. It was almost as if I wished I could have gone abroad so that everything could be magically transformed and changed for the better once I returned – myself, my family, the economy. As Obama addressed in his State of the Union, 1 in 10 Americans cannot find work and businesses have indeed shuttered and so for many Americans, change has not come fast enough. President Obama noted that State of the Union addresses have come during period of prosperity and tranquility, war and depression, great strife and great struggle and this is certainly a time of great struggle.
But a few things have changed. My parents have learned how to fight setbacks. America is learning how to fight setbacks. And I guess I have changed and I too am learning to fight setbacks. Though I will always love England and plan on returning, I know that England was for D.H. Lawrence what America is for me. True, Europe is the place where I want to be but for now, America is where I belong and I’ve learned I can’t run away from the place I belong.


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