33 years ago, I landed at JFK International Airport on Dec 30th, 1988 to attend Graduate School at University of Wisconsin.
At the stroke of midnight on 31 Dec 1988, with wind chill hovering around minus 30-50 F, I stepped foot on the grounds of the university campus, that was to be my home for the coming year.
Amazing and powerful journey
My mentor and professor Dr. Harold Beals came to pick me up.
He gently asked where would I be staying?
Upon hearing my response, he informed me that was not going to happen.
Here I was freezing to death almost or at least that is how I felt.
My brand-new Bata leather dress shoe and the best winter jacket, we could afford in India, was no match for the Wisconsin winter.
All I could think at this point was let us go somewhere warm and then we can figure out everything…that was the start of a new adventure in my life in the USA where at every stop and turn, it has demanded refocus, rewiring, reframing, re-energizing, and never giving up.
This is also the story of millions of immigrants.
Long story short, in the last 33 years after going through three graduate schools in WI, ID, and NC for nine years, living for months mostly drinking water or eating leftover food at university campuses when no one was watching, yet went running almost every day to clear my head and stay focused, holding all kinds of jobs such as retail store clerk, cashier, dishwasher, cook, server, packer, travel agent, retail store manager, teaching and research assistant, being told that I was not a good fit given the color of my eyes and hair, being told what could I do, or being taken to the police station to be intimidated by some powerful folks in the university town, my resume not shared with prospective companies interested in hiring interns, being told folks are not interested in hiring international students, losing a year because the university was not familiar with a type of student loan for an international student, being denied promotions or raise in spite of the results, and on and on…
"Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames".- Rumi