GUEST POST | The Spirit of Independence
Independence Day is far and away my favorite holiday. Not in a having-a-few-days-off-from-work or an extended-weekend-at-the-beach way. I have an unbridled devotion to America that teeters on blind-loyalty.
This eccentric adoration plays right into why I notoriously identify the holiday as “Independence Day” and not just the Fourth of July; a day in which we annually commemorate the adoption of a Declaration of Independence signed by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, declaring that the thirteen American colonies would henceforth regard themselves as a new nation, and no longer part of the British Empire.
It was just the start of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. #NBD.
I wear my fervent patriotism on my sleeve… and around my neck, and on my socks, and on the handkerchief in my back pocket, and on the face of my watch. I have more flags than a Model UN—albeit one that is extremely biased toward the good ol’ U S of A.
When my sister married in 2013, I spitefully created a competing wedding website for my nuptials with The State of Liberty. Monday was Lady and I’s third anniversary… thanks for remembering. According to my book on wedding etiquette for man-and-inanimate-symbol-of-freedom couples, crystal stemware and peace treaties are appropriate gifts, as well as assorted potpourris.
As a Native Washingtonian, I prefer to spend Independence Day in DC. Every year, I host a patriotic celebration that begins with “Revelry” at dawn, and concludes with a procession down East Capitol Street for fireworks on the National Mall. What occurs between those bookends can generally be described as passionate commemoration veiled in raucous debauchery.
This year’s celebration was preempted, however, by the request of a close friend—the same friend who so graciously supplies the bugle for “Revelry” each year—to spend his bachelor party at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, just outside of Wilmington, for a coinciding rugby tournament over Independence Day Weekend.
I, of course, obliged (read: begrudgingly caved) and suddenly found myself among a group of 13 with a few days off from work for an extended weekend at the beach.
About halfway through the trip, as we passed through Halifax, North Carolina, I noticed the slogan on the county line sign: “Where the Spirit of Independence was Born.”
A quick Google Search would have me find the deep history of this small town. It was here where the first official Declaration of Independence was adopted by the colony of North Carolina to begin to unite our then-fledgling Nation. The first constitution of the State of North Carolina was written here as well.
I took in that historical nugget to be kept for another time and didn’t think much of it—or perhaps couldn’t remember it—over the next few days of rugby, sun, sand, and more alcohol and tobacco than the Surgeon General need know about.
Over the course of five days, we shared the pitch as a team during the tournament, spent hours just shooting the breeze on the shore, and explored the little beach town like drunken pirates. On Independence Day, we made our way into Downtown Wilmington to watch the fireworks set off of the historic battleship USS North Carolina. As the final bomb burst in air, we broke into a bellowing and heartfelt rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, which soon grew into a chorus of over 200.
Here I thought we were in Wilmington, and I come to find myself in Goosebumps City, USA. Just awesome.
The morning we left, a few of us got up early to catch the sunrise on the beach. As the sun broke over the horizon and burned off the morning haze, that county line sign in Halifax came back to mind, and the potential of another new day could not have been clearer.
What I was worried about being an uncomfortable diversion from what I was used to, became a welcome reminder of what makes life so exciting and turned into quite the memorable trip—from what can be remembered, at least.
This was just a few days off from work and an extended weekend at the beach shared among 13 men from varying cities and backgrounds, each of whom with their own unique and independent story that has gotten them to where they are today. Tomorrow, the sun will rise again, bringing limitless potential fueled by that very spirit of independence that is so uniquely individual and simultaneously universal.
It’s inherent in our desire to try new things and make lasting memories, while welcoming the unknown with open arms.
It’s in a clever kid from Philly who chooses to take his talents to a new coast, from sea to shining sea.
It’s in an Indiana transplant who relocates to DC with his high school sweetheart-now-wife with a creed to write a new chapter of their lives together.
It’s in the adventurous soul of a native Hawaiian who embarks on a cross-continental experience in South America.
The Spirit of Independence might have been born in Halifax, North Carolina, but it’s in the cities, places, and things we experience every day. And there will be many more to explore when the sun comes up tomorrow.