Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The seven year (h)itch

Today marks the seventh year of my move to the US. Like I keep repeating this story to the now bored audiences, on a sunny September morning seven fall seasons ago, I had toured the entire world (almost) on my maiden flight, from Calcutta to Mumbai to Frankfurt to Los Angeles (with a one hour cockpit tour over Turkey) until I reached Seattle. I was tired, jetlagged, discombobulated, and ready to collapse. That started a series of many first experiences in life.

            I started with paying a rent of $375 every month (including utilities) in my first apartment at the U-District, sharing a floor, a kitchen, and two bathrooms with seven other people. Canon was my first point and shoot camera. A tub of Vaseline was my first purchase (which I still have, because another tub came free with that). My first trip was Las Vegas during Thanksgiving.

            Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was twenty five, starry eyed, and ready to change my life with my freshly minted F1 visa. Moving to Seattle was the best decision of my life, something I have never regretted. It started many a memorable journeys in life, making hundreds of new friends, whose spouses and siblings and neighbors and parents also became my friends eventually. 

            And what a fantastic journey it has been. I had never lived outside home before that, and this was my first real taste of independence. I have messed up quite a lot, burnt my dinner, knocked off a trash can while driving in someone's driveway, woken up late and missed class, shown up for the wrong exam, failed my Biochemistry test, had bland soup at someone's house because I did not know how to use a pepper mill, wished happy Thanksgiving to a cop after he gave me a $300 speeding ticket, ordered quesadilla as kyu-sa-dilla, the list is long. These are real life examples as well as figurative examples.

            And yet my learning curve in the last seven years has been tantamount to my learning curve for the twenty five years before that. Have I changed as a person? I don’t know. But I think that I take life way less seriously now. My goals are still serious, but not the way I see life anymore. Because nothing matters at the end of the day. 

            Regrets? Not at all. Okay, maybe a tiny one. I still have not seen Grand Canyon, but I intend to change that soon. I'll add Alaska to the list too.

            Quoting Jhumpa Lahiri from Interpreter of Maladies, “Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.” Seven years, and I have moved and lived in three cities and six apartments. I will always associate most of the significant milestones of my life with this country. Getting a masters degree. Getting a PhD. Working. Researching. My postdoctoral job. My first digital camera. First car. Failing the theory of the driver's test the first time. First speeding ticket. Trips to Hawaii and Puerto Rico. First road trip. First paper publication. I realize that memories of the milestones achieved in India will slowly fade out, replaced by memories in the US.

            Quoting Jhumpa Lahiri from The Namesake again, “Pack a pillow and blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it.” No Mrs. Lahiri, I have never regretted it. Today might as well have been my second birthday. And here is a toast to everyone who has been a part of this amazing journey.


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