I root for Team USA during the Olympics. I get a little misty-eyed when the flag is raised or I hear the first strains of The Star Spangled Banner. I sigh in delight over rockets red glare on the Fourth of July. I wax poetic about the joy of a cheeseburger and a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee. I marvel at the expanse of sea to shining sea.
I’m an American.
But I don’t live in America any more.
I live in Europe now. Europe is not free of violence or discrimination, it’s not a perfect utopia where everyone is sitting cross-legged in a circle strumming Kumbayah. It’s not without problems or worries. It’s not even free of guns.
But it is a place without everyday gun violence, without mall rampages and movie theatre massacres. And without school shootings. And while we’re here, let’s stop mincing words, without the frighteningly regular slaughter of innocents.
My teenager gets on his bike every morning and cycles to school. I worry that some distracted driver will clip him. I worry he’ll be distracted and do something stupid. Sometimes I worry that he’ll ride without a helmet, despite my insistence.
I don’t worry about identifying his bullet-ridden body in a cold morgue because someone shot up his school.
I worry my fourth-grader will feel lonely on the playground. I worry he’ll get anxious about a test. I worry that he will come home with head lice because head lice is a pain in the ass.
I don’t worry about him hiding in a corner of his classroom while someone with an assault rifle is roaming the hallway looking for unlocked doors.
I go to parent teacher conferences. I worry that my kids will fall through the cracks because, truth be told, they’re easy kids to teach and sometimes teachers spend a disproportionate amount of their time with kids who have more challenging needs. I worry that they’re not drilling them in their times tables enough, because man, I knew those things backward and forward.
I do not worry about looking those teachers in the eye and trying to figure out if they would take a bullet for my kids.
I worry now that my teen has more independence he’ll make the right choices.
I never worry about those choices including walking into a store and buying a gun.
I worry my sons spend too much time on their computers, their iPads, their phones.
I do not worry when they scamper off to see the latest Marvel movie on the big screen that someone is going to come in and shoot up the theatre.
I worry they might give in to peer pressure.
I don’t worry about them going to other people’s homes where there may be unsecured, loaded weapons.
I worry about drugs. I worry about unprotected sex. I worry my soon to be high schooler isn’t working to his full potential and it might hurt his chances when he applies to college.
I never worry he’s going to get hold of an AR-15 and shoot up his school.
We all live in uncertain times. I sometimes worry about planes being blown out of the sky and trucks plowing into pedestrians.
I don’t worry about my kids living in a state of perpetual lock-down preparation. I don’t worry about whether or not their teacher is getting through to them how to be quiet in an active shooter situation. I don’t worry about their teachers carrying guns.
I’m an American who is sitting somewhere else, wondering if she can ever go home, because though I may bleed red, white, and blue, I am not sure I can stomach the idea of worrying about my children bleeding out on a classroom floor for someone else’s interpretation of a two hundred year old sentence.
I know I’m not the only one in this situation. I talk to dozens of other Americans, mostly mothers, some fathers, who find themselves navigating these same complex feelings. I’m both grateful that I can send my children to school free of these worries, and pounded by guilt that so many people I love have to someone manage them everyday.
I know there are others. So, so many others. I know I’m not the only American abroad who feels this way:
I’m an American who is grateful that right now I do not live in America.
And that breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces.
This original version of this article first appeared on Medium, a new platform for me. If you like it, head on over to the original (linked right above ↑) and ‘clap’ for it. Thx.