Today marks a significant day. Significant not because of anything that happened on this somewhat ordinary Tuesday but rather what happened fifteen years ago. On February 16, 2001, I broke metaphorical ties with a homeland I never quite felt any attachment to and moved half way around the world seeking permanence.
In the decade and a half since that day, the search for permanence has proved elusive. It seems hardly a day has passed by when I have not been reminded of my outsider status, the inherent impermanence of strangerhood. Hardly a day has gone by when I have not felt the pressure of being a first-generation immigrant, shouldering the responsibility of both honoring a superficial family name evidenced by parental sacrifice and countering anti-immigrant sentiment looking to fuel the flame of nativist fires. And yet in that state of impermanence, I have learned to appreciate the everyday. For each day I wake up in this undoubtedly spectacular place of shelter and refuge, I am grateful.
I am grateful for the time and the lessons. I am grateful for being able to embrace the uncertainty both of my immigrant (or more accurately, nonimmigrant) status and of life. I am grateful for understanding where I came from and how that has shaped my perspective. I am grateful for friends who have welcomed me. I am grateful for family that has stood by me. I am grateful for the shelter of a country finding its way.
Fifteen years. For fifteen years, I had the luxury of living among some of the kindest people I have ever known. For fifteen years, I had the good fortune of being educated by some of the smartest people in the world. For fifteen years, I learned from teachers, from coaches, from friends, from neighbors, and from strangers. For fifteen years, I had the chance to laugh, to cry, to be afraid, to hold on, to smile.
Whatever the next fifteen years will bring, and wherever the road may lead, I know that it is because of the last fifteen that I will have the strength, courage, determination, and fortitude to face the future. For that, above all else, I am grateful in this fifteenth year.