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How to Become a Naturalized American
a coming book by Gianluca Zanna Copyright 2013 Thrive Productions LLC
My name is Gianluca Zanna and I am a naturalized American Citizen.
I was born in Rome Italy and my family is from Anzio, a little town on the Tirrenic Sea about 40 miles from Rome, famous not only to be home of several Roman Emperors like Nero and Caligula, but also to have been one of the battlefields during WWII where American and Allied forces landed and fought to liberate Italy from German occupation. Since I was a child my grandfather Bruno, used to tell me stories of the battles that cost thousands of American lives on the beaches of Anzio, lives of young men (and women too, many red cross nurses were killed under German bombs and artillery) that they never came back home and gave their life for our freedom. I always tried to imagine the last moments of their lives, alone, bleeding, in pain, away from their mothers and beloved one... to die on the shores of what used to be my town, for people like my family... people that they never even knew.
I admire that generation of Americans, and I am not shy to admit, that every time I think about those events, my eyes always shed tears and I become very emotional.
So, I am sure it's not hard to understand why since I was a child I grew up with the utmost admiration of the American People and I felt that Italy was not going to be the place where my life would have been fulfilled. Don't get me wrong, I love Italy, its culture, its history, its food, its music... but in me there was something that I did not know how to describe... a sense of unhappiness, a feeling that I did belong to another place, another language, another way of thinking... One day I realized one day when I was around 13... I wanted to become an American.
I remember my challenges with my English language. Since I was a teenager, I was (and I still am) into to writing poems and songs. I used to write my first songs in English, and English that I used to learn from American Songs... like a puzzle, like a little parrot trying to repeat sounds of a language still unknown to me... I still remember the first band I used to translate and learn my first “American lessons”: KISS and their album “Dressed to Kill”.
At the same, while I was burning for the desire to become an American, as a young man, I still remember the fear of the unknown that I was projecting myself in. A fear mixed with sadness to realize that one day I would have to leave my mother, my family and the Country where I was born, to fulfill my dream. The challenge to learn another language, to start a new life in a new place without any type of family support, to start a new career, to integrate myself culturally and socially.
The fear to fail, to fear to come back rejected... this fear I understand how can be a deterrent to many immigrants.
Another big dilemma and challenge was: How can I become an American??
I had no idea at the time of the details, but I knew that there were laws and a process to follow, and it was not going be a natural right, but a privilege, that I had to earn it... and still, regardless the sacrifices, nothing was going to be 100% sure.
Before I finally decided to become an American, I had the opportunity to travel around the world and visiting Countries and places that gave me the reassurance in my heart, that America was the place where I was going to fulfill my destiny. In my 20s I went all over Europe, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain... I went to the South Pacific looking for the islands of Freedom that they don't exist, but among my journeys I had a chance to visit as tourist America few times.
The first time on my way to French Polynesia, I had a chance to stop few days in Los Angeles, waiting for the flight to Tahiti. I was just 19, just out of high school, not sure about my future, looking for a an utopistic place that I created in my dreams, the “island of freedom”. Well, I have never found the island of freedom in the French territory of French Polynesia, but the few days that I wandered around Los Angeles, regardless, the smog, the gangs, the traffic and congestion, I felt something, almost hard to describe. I was inebriated of a sense of freedom, something, that not even in the middle of most exotic islands of the South Pacific I never felt. After my Experience in the Pacific, I came back home to Italy, disappointed in having realized that the islands of freedom that I imagined in my mind, did not exist. One thing, besides the disappointment I brought with me from this experience... the understanding that America was my island of freedom and freedom was a state of mind, not a physical place.
Few years later, I was about 20 to come back to America as student, yes I wanted to become an Airplane pilot. After stopping few days in New York, at some family's friends, I headed to Jonesboro Arkansas, a little town where I heard that they teach you how to become a pilot for very affordable rates, and they give you free room till you pass your test. Well, that was perfect for me. I spent almost a complete winter in little Jonesboro, and I love it every thing, rednecks included. That was my first long term experience in the States, and it did confirm my instinct : I wanted to become an American! I still remember on my way back home, riding the Greyhound back to New York... even being poor, young and with no real plans, I felt I could accomplish everything I wanted in this new land, with God's help. Without getting into many details of what I did till I decided to finally apply for a VISA to explore the opportunity of how to become an American, after I came back to Italy till I was 27, I was a music manager of local bands in Rome. I also was the publisher of a music trade monthly magazine Contatto Discografico, I published some very unique books in the music industry like the first Book “How to sign a Record Contract” and the first Italian Vocal Method by Elizabeth Sabine a famous vocal coach from Hollywood (among her students AXL Rose of Guns and Roses)... I was working hard to try to finally “grow up” and have a regular adult independent life.
But, still, in the back of my mind, there was something that I could not suppress, lie to myself or avoid.... my destiny was not fulfilled, my dream was to become an American.
Destiny works in strange ways... At 27, after I did work very hard for more than 3 years in launching my new career as the youngest Publisher and Music manager in Rome, I finally decided that I had it enough with living in a lie: I was tired of the Italian system, where small businesses are at the mercy of the government and a corrupted bureaucracy, where individuals have no real rights but “privileges” allowed by the government.
I still remember when I launched my music publication, I had to go to a Court to have the “permit” to exercise my freedom of speech, that is not really a freedom of speech, but just a licensed and controlled activity by the government. I had to have a Director with a special ID that without him, I could not publish legally my music magazine...
So, finally, after some personal events, I finally “lost my mind”, and it was the best thing ever happened to me. It is difficult to let go all your hard work and sacrifices of years, and be ready to start from scratch, leaving behind you everything.
Before that big step to come to America, after I decided to shut down my business, I chose to live on the streets of Rome as Spartacus the first Roman Gladiator taking photos with tourists.
15 months on the streets of Rome, cold or hot, summer and winter... I was finally on my way to come to America. Yes, I felt already there. Most of my customers were Americans, and I loved to interact with them. I also was the first organizer of reenactments Gladiatoral fights in restaurants and hotels... I had a great time and on top this experience gave me the opportunity to refine my English. After about over 1 year of this bohemian life, I felt that was the right moment, and after a prayer I went to the American Embassy in via Veneto to apply for a VISA.