This archived article was written by: Renato Magalhaes
My father told me to go all the way through my dreams. “There is no place for cowards,” he said in his deep and serene voice, “no place for those who do not dare to chase their happiness.” Despite his simple appearance and quiet personality, his posture would show a profound and strong individual, whose notion of life had been tested quite a few times.
His death in 2013 was a turning point for my family. It felt as if our core was gone. Being a 55-year-old father, he promised on my birth he would live until I turned 18. He did, by three extra months to be precise.
Being the youngest at home, I saw everyone moving on and continuing their lives around that period. However, there was still an odd sensation: like a missing kite in the sky, something was wrong, vacant of direction. I knew I had to make a move. Life would not wait for me, and I could not wait for it.
My father’s lessons would lead me to better opportunities and places I had never dreamed about before. Almost three years after his death, I was sure I had to move forward. Brazil, my country of origin, was then facing one of the worst moments in history. Economic recession, employment breakdown, corruption and insecurity were the central issues.
My priority was to pursue what I believed to be a better future, even though I would have to give some things up. As much as it may hurt, every decision gives us something and gets something from us in exchange. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to live everything we desire; nevertheless, we can choose to explore the bright side.
One night, years later and thousands of miles away, I found myself in a different country, walking around Price, Utah, my new home.
Fall had just begun and the breeze was smooth, slowly pushing fallen leaves around. The streets were quiet and the moon was shining bright.
The entire scenery seemed vivid. The green gardens contrasted the sidewalk grayish pavement, drawing symmetric lines until the next corner. Lights were on everywhere. People were inside their houses wide awake talking loudly, some laughing.
I could hear my father’s words echoing in my mind as I walked through an alley over a mild brook, the water harmoniously breaking through the flow. Was I dreaming, or was I living the dream? The simple walk turned to be my greatest oasis. It was more than feeling the breeze or seeing the landscape.
I could see myself in that picture this time, I felt I belonged there. It was all about looking at the last years and understanding the causes and effects of my main decisions.
I could admire the beauty of that spare time.
After living most of my life in the risky streets of a third-world country, simple elements play a key role. For the first time in life, I could walk around in the streets unafraid of threats. For the first time in my life, I could walk not feeling like a target. I sensed something brand new, it was about happiness. I was owner of my path, free to enjoy the moment.
The wind got stronger, waving flags all around. It did not take the magic away, but enhanced it. I found something to stand for. The red, white and blue, the 13 stripes and the 50 stars showed something to be proud of, something more than a national symbol. They showed this was still the land of opportunities.
There I felt rewarded, and shocked, by a new reality. I felt blessed to be where I am. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 13 percent of the U.S. population consists of immigrants. Around 42 million people are in the same situation, many of them probably leaving everything behind and risking it all. Why does that happen? Do they feel the same way as me?
What happened in history is the most important lesson for our next step. The U.S. has been a harbor for many people throughout the centuries. A sanctuary for the “tired,” for the “poor” and mainly for those “yearning to breathe free,” as poet Emma Lazarus expressed. This is hidden in the flag; a flag that accepts, embraces and strengthens individuals.
That walk reminded me that we are the consequence of our own actions. My conscience was clear I am living the happiness my father talked about back in the days. I am grateful to feel home and I stand for this flag.