Today marks the 25th anniversary of a date that has had a profound impact on my life. Over the years other dates may have surpassed it in importance and awareness, but throughout my childhood and youth we remembered September 8, 1986 as the day we left Denmark and moved to America.
I was six years old, had never before set foot in an airplane, and it was my first time moving anywhere in my conscious life. I remember being somewhat scared – not of flying, but of the big unknown, of leaving behind everything I knew, of having to learn a new language.
Most of my fears were put to shame, though. Being a child, learning English was easy for me (assisted by game shows and cartoons on TV, plus a bit of school). The four years spent in Michigan were happy years, filled with quality family time, great travel experiences, and a broader perspective on the world.
This was the eighties. And a lot has changed since then. It was Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen, K-Mart and Sears, curly-haired women and mustached men, roller-skates and Dirty Dancing, arcade games (Ms. Pac-Man) and 80×86 computers, Superman and King Kong, the Smurfs and Teddy Ruxpin, Oliver North and Michael Dukakis, fuel-gulping American cars and state park camping, tobogganing in winter and catching tadpoles in summer. It was wonderful.
In 1990 we moved back to Denmark, and slowly the memories began to fade. But my world was still bigger than those of many national counterparts. Eventually it would grow bigger still, with especially Australia entering its sphere of influence. And presently, with my parents back in the place of my childhood (Southwest Michigan), the journey has come full circle, although I remain in Denmark.
I don’t know if I will ever go back to live in the U.S. as an adult. The American dream may have faded somewhat, and the nation’s economy is in as poor a shape as ever. But to me, America still exemplifies a wider world of vast opportunities, and the hope that you can go anywhere you want in life. Perhaps the American dream is best played out in other places of the world these days, but that says more about the current state of affairs than about the quality of that dream.
25 years later, I have no concrete plans of leaving Denmark. But if it does come to that, I know that it will not be in fear, but in positive anticipation of all that the world has to offer.