Every July 4, I remember my first Independence Day as an American citizen, and the way in which circumstances and my bosses at the time had conspired to make sure that, not only would I actually be working that day, but that I’d lose one of my regular days off that week in addition for reasons to arcane to articulate beyond, simply, “it came down to them or me, and they chose them.”
I remember the stinging feeling at the time, the sense of injustice that I felt with such clarity and sublimated anger, about the fact that I was finally a fully-fledged, naturalized and the whole shebang, citizen of the United States of America, and yet here I was being forced to work on the biggest damn holiday of the year that wasn’t Christmas or Thanksgiving — even though, back then, I didn’t really get Thanksgiving on any emotional level. (I still don’t, not really; I’m pretty convinced it’s something you need to have grown up with in order to fully appreciate, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Looking back at it today, I feel… embarrassed, perhaps…? about the whole thing, and how self-righteous I was in my upset. How naive I was, too, in being surprised that a decision had been made to put me to work instead of others sacrificing their own time off, and how self-centered it was to think that my first July 4th as an American citizen meant anything to anyone that wasn’t me. It’s something I go back to in my head periodically, as a reminder to keep myself in check and try to keep a sense of perspective about whatever’s happening to me: do you really want this to happen again? and so on.
I didn’t realize it at the time, and wouldn’t for a few years, but thinking about it now, being forced to work on a day you want to spend as a vacation, and being reminded that your bosses are your bosses and not your friends feels like a central part of the American experience, sadly. It was, if nothing else, unfortunately fitting.
Happy Independence Day.