The America I have grown to know contradicts itself constantly. I have seen a sleepy baseball town suddenly explode with happy activity, its energy tangible, for only one weekend each summer. Three thousand miles away, and a month earlier, I watched quietly as an entire city stood somber in solidarity, its skyscrapers silent, gray with gloom and fear.
This constant war of contradiction rages. Political parties, genders, races. It is a war of identities that unifies under its overarching flag. Where 300 million people can cry together one day for one issue, then easily turn a blind eye to equal devastation.
America’s varying climates echo its peoples’ varying temperaments. It is a place of mountains and seas, deserts and towering Redwood forests. I have lived on the East Coast, West Coast and in between. I have slept in king-size beds and on floors and outside under a brilliant hue of stars. I have driven across its length seven times and flown over its expanse many more. Each time, each distinct experience, I taste different elements of its diversity.
It is a place where even my own mind contradicts itself. Are these contradictions, both internal and external, bad? On the days when I look upon senseless tragedy, caught up online with traffic and chaos and noise, hopelessness ensues. How can people in this country that has been my home — that has been all of our homes — be so cruel to others? Can we ever recover? Somehow, we always do.
It is the small acts of hope that rebuild us. A child’s laugh. A breathtaking sunset. A sincere ‘I love you.’ Kindness. An opportunity to travel. I can wander aimlessly, yet somehow always end up exactly where I’m supposed to be.
It is this contradiction that tints America with beauty.
Editor’s note: This story is part of our November 2016 series ‘Hundreds of Words about The America I Live In’
Kristen Gowdy is the media and marketing assistant at USA Bobsled & Skeleton. She graduated from Ithaca College and has done internships with the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Seattle Times and the Colorado Springs Gazette. You can reach her @KristenGowdy.