Like everyone who’s done any significant traveling, I often question the quality of life in the US. Here in the Bay Area, we work all the time so we can afford to live here, which means we outsource the raising of our children. Even scheduling dates with our friends turns into exhaustive calendaring discussions.
But this year on the 4th of July I was struck by just how fortunate we are to be living in a land of nearly unlimited opportunity. My community had a potluck dinner, after which
we all watched the fireworks. We sat at a table with a mother and her son and daughter-in-law. They had immigrated to the US from Iran during the Khomeini era, arriving in Philadelphia to stay with a relative. They were a family of five who had fled the political turmoil with little more than the clothes on their backs and not a word of English. What they had brought with them was what all of our ancestors shared: a strong work ethic and belief in America as the land of opportunity. This family worked hard, sent their kids to school, and the son became a doctor.
I was reminded of how people here in the US are making opportunities for themselves every single day, and I’m not sure this would be possible anyplace else in the world. It all began when the economy tanked, and we lost our well-paying corporate jobs and began reinventing themselves. We had to because there were no more of those corporate jobs to be had—and let’s be realistic—many of us were too damn old—who was going to hire us?
I’m one of those people. I’m now surrounded by friends and colleagues who have been nimble, creative, aggressive and smart enough to find new ways to make a living. It hasn’t been easy, especially the last few years in a very bad economy. But the tenacity and resilience of my colleagues continues to inspire me. Most of us are happier than we were before. By reaching deep within ourselves, making and learning from our mistakes, we’ve grown stronger, more confident and self-assured because we’ve done this ourselves through sheer will and inventiveness—right here in America, the land of opportunity. Happy Independence Day!