If you’ve even been barely paying attention to the Senate race in Alabama, you will understand the importance of citizenship. People with no direct ties to, or voting rights in, Alabama, had opinions about who should win the hotly debated contest. We all became citizens, not of the state of Alabama, but of the stance we took on whose values most aligned with our own.

I didn’t want Roy Moore to win because I don’t think grown men should prey on teenaged girls, I don’t think America’s greatest time was when enslaving humans was legal, and because he was endorsed by political individuals I don’t agree with or support. My citizenships as Black and woman makes those issues important to me.

Considering Citizenship

I will admit the idea of citizenship has only recently inched its way to my vision and understanding. In previous years, I have never really thought about what it means to me, and in some ways, I’ve been avoiding the question of citizenship. I finally began giving it subconscious thought in the way I have begun allowing space for my future self: thinking about who I am and what I want to do and what I can do.

I no longer want my citizenship to just happen to me.

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What I find most satisfying about citizenship, besides the idea of belonging, is knowing that citizenship can be transformed and transferable. Where you are from or end up does not define who you are and where you can go, you aren’t emotionally mandated to stay in any particular space. Be it, place of worship, employment or relationship — you don’t have to be committed or a physically present citizen. Even if these places and environments are difficult to escape, you don’t have to be a citizen emotionally. This satisfies me deeply.

Finding Satisfaction in Citizenship

I believe citizenship is an internal pull and calling — and less about geography. An example, after grad school, encouraged by a cousin who lived there at the time and excited about a different landscape, I moved to Tampa, Florida. I made the long drive from Chicago to Florida. Once I arrived, my initial excitement soon subsided. No matter what I did, a disconnection loomed over me. I wasn’t a citizen. That move lasted a brief six months. In contrast, I have traveled to other countries on holiday and immediately felt as if I could stay forever, no questions asked. Sometimes you can find a kinship that supersedes your natural citizenship.

The GoldLink lyrics, “…what a time, what a year” bounce around in my head as 2017 comes to an end. If I had to evaluate it, I would say this year has definitely been the best of times and the worst of times. I have been thinking of my citizenship, what it means, and spending time being mindful of where I believe I belong and how to get to that place. The only way I’ve been able to find this information and dig deep is by getting still, being quiet and listening. Call it growing pains, restlessness or being anxious, when I am my true authentic self and honor my values, that’s what really dictates where I am a true citizen: within.

2018 is barreling towards us, and I want to start living purposefully and really giving thought to where I belong: career-wise, relationship-wise, financially and from a position of service. I no longer want my citizenship to just happen to me. I want to steer it intentionally (when I can), putting myself in the best possible communities and cultures; I want my citizenship to speak loudly.

Featured Photo by James Padolsey on Unsplash
Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash
How much thought have you put into your citizenship? Writer Maya James, has decided she no longer wants hers to just happen to her.

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