I first applied for my passport about three years ago, expecting to be denied.
That’s not to say I didn’t plan to ever get my passport. I just thought it was a worthless pursuit. At this point in my life, I was ready to be done with the identity of “not existing” and simply apply for a social security.
At the time, all of this was only burdensome family tradition for me. I didn’t understand why we didn’t have a number and while it made for fun conversation, I was also very bitter where many conversations had lead and ended with certain friends of mine.
My plan was to try my family’s way to prove to them that it didn’t work, and when I was denied I would be done with all of it and exist.
I went in neither hopeful nor positive.
I was tired of not doing anything with the life God had given me. I felt the intense desire to live fully and not hide away because of family conspiracies (whether true or false, I didn’t care).
All I knew was that I wanted to do things and I wasn’t going to let family, government, or paperwork stop me. God had placed me on Earth so that I might live, not merely wait for death and Heaven.
And so I went into the post office and applied using the following documents:
- Photo ID (I didn’t have my driver’s license yet)
- Page from the family Bible
- Home made birth certificate
- A few birth affidavits (our post office gave these forms to us)
- Page from the IRS stating I didn’t have an SSN
- Letters, electrical bills
- School records
- Newspaper clipping of my birth announcement
- And the form. When it came to the line asking for an SSN I filled all 0s.
The guy who helped me at the post office took my photos for the passport. I remember being annoyed when he told me I couldn’t smile for the photo.
When I see a camera I smile. It’s sacrilege to do anything else.
He said, “They want to see your natural face. No one walks through the airport smiling.”
Mom said, “Keturah does.”
Which was actually mostly true … when I see grouchy people I like to slap them with a smile to show to them the world doesn’t have to be as awful as they make it out to be. And airports, especially TSA, are full of grouches.
Brief rabbit trail: I was allowed to smile for my first driver’s license photo and once when I was flying there was this nice older guy working in TSA. He saw me with my smile and said, “Ah, I hope that’s on here, too! Ah, good!”
Back to the passport.
I paid a nonrefundable $100 knowing I was throwing it away, and applied for permission to leave my country.
I was told they couldn’t just outright deny me, but if they needed more information, they’d send a letter requesting specifics.
I got that letter, in a very official looking white envelope.
I grew to dread those envelopes as I received many over the following months.
It surprisingly didn’t ask about the lack of a social security number, but they wanted me to prove I was in fact born in the States.
I gave them what they wanted, and exchanged letters back and forth with the Department of State.
It was always so disheartening to receive that small white envelope that I knew meant they still weren’t satisfied.
But, I think I also found a bit of hope, too. Because I saw a social security wasn’t going to help me at all … they needed birth records, or something, to prove my nationality, but not a number.
After about a year I received a huge orange envelope.
Part hesitant, part excited, I opened the package to find all of my information returned…
… And my passport application denied.
I was angry at first because I’d worked so hard on this for a whole year, and I’d sent them everything they’d asked for, and I hadn’t got any last letter asking for anything else before they denied me.
They were always supposed to ask for more information before denying.
But I had no grounds to complain, and they couple keep my money.
I’d learned that a social security would do me no good and that I’d still have the same issue proving my nationality. So, in a way I was more upset than when I started our because I had no idea what to do.
So I gave up.
First out of anger, then out of exhaustion.
I waited a good year, and then a bit more mature, I tried again.
I sent all the same stuff along with my driver’s license (which I don’t think matters that much), except this time I overwhelmed them with a lot more birth affadavits and information about my parents.
Soon after applying I received another letter. They wanted a list of every place I’d ever lived… an actual fun project that filled nearly two pages. I’ve moved a lot with my family.
I sent the letter off and waited for the inevitable: another letter or rejection.
Six months later, on January 1, 2018 I received another orange package with all of my information returned.
But this time instead of a rejection, I had my passport.
I don’t remember being excited. Only relieved. And part of me wondered if they’d made a mistake and would come take the passport back!
But some friends of ours were able to get their passports shortly after, too.
And so I allowed myself to be happy. Almost immediately I applied online to be an Au Pair in Germany. I could now travel… so why not prove it?
I’d done the impossible. And I was ready to tread this path to its utmost end.
I had to spend nearly two years doing it, and twice the money, but I’d done it.
On the way I’d learned a ton, and realized I wanted to know more and maybe I’d actually agree with my family’s beliefs and they could become more than traditions to me.
I loved the feeling of no longer being stuck by my heritage, but able to embrace it as a good part of who I am.
And so the title of this blog was born.