I turn my head when I hear the nicknames ‘banana,’ ‘cello,’ ‘earth muffin,’ and ‘bug.’ I still react to ‘freshman,’ even though no one’s called me that for over two years. I respond to even the most unfortunate nicknames my brothers gave me. One thing I never thought I’d be pegged for, though, was where I am from. Wisconsin used to just be the farmland which I had the fate to live in. And America, to me, was the United States government and all the wacky patriots with their Chevy pick-ups whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Today, however, I am called “Wisconsin” or “America” on an almost daily basis. My geography teacher looks at me and says, “America, what do you think?” and my history professor says, “America! Settle down!” My friends call me America whenever I’m acting strangely, and I am “Wisconsin” to Savannah if I say ‘sauna’ the way Finland intended.
It’s a funny thought to realize what the rest of the world associates with your home. Contrary to popular belief, “America” does not only represent freedom. I’ve also encountered a lot of misconceptions about the dangers of living in America because “everyone owns guns.” I’ve actually been asked how many guns my family has. Also, although every town in America does seem to have at least one McDonald’s, we also have restaurants which serve exclusively local, organic food and cafes which let you decide how much you should pay for your meal. As for “Wisconsin,” well, everything you’ve heard about us is probably true. Of course, everything is only true in moderation, but we have mud races, we all know at least three kids and a dog named “Brett” (due to infamous Brett Favre), we can pronounce Oconomowoc and Wauwatosa, we have different tires for summer and winter driving, and we have brat fries in the summer (that is not a food. It’s like a barbecue, but we grill bratwurst, brats).
However, despite the fact that people instantly associate America with “big” or “rich” or just plain weird, when I’m called “America” I still get warm fuzzies in my toes (as I simultaneously cringe a little on the inside). Now that I’m living abroad, being addressed as my country conjures up my favorite memories of macaroni & cheese, and vivid images of vast, wide-open fields surrounded by never-ending hills. It also reminds me that I am a part of America. Not only am I part of America, here I actually am America. People’s impression of my will also be their impression of my entire country (this cracks me up, because I am from Wisconsin). It also reminds me that as cheesy as it may sound, I am a youth ambassador for my country. So the next time you call me “America,” I hope you know that as many things as I dislike about my country, there are two times that amount which I love. Don’t be surprised if I sarcastically respond, “It’s actually ‘Amuhrica’,” or if I hold back my response because it’s more sardonic than is appropriate. But, despite my cynicism, behind all that sass, and underneath that smirk of mine is a real smile and a deep-set love and respect for the country which I call home.