There are times in life when you take in a lot of garbage. And then comes a day when nothing really happens, but a small something tips you over. You realize that you have had it, and you are done taking in all the garbage. I think I reached that point recently.
It happened the same day I wrote my earlier post. I was walking back to my office, and the wind was strong. It was raining as well, and thankfully, I had my umbrella with me. I have very fond memories of this umbrella because I bought it on a rainy day during my trip to Europe. So it is a souvenir. Anyway. The wind was strong (Nebraska is infamous for that), and my umbrella kept turning the wrong way. There was no point in carrying it if I was getting wet anyway. So I tried to close it.
At that point, my finger got stuck in the umbrella, tearing a little bit of flesh and drawing a few drops of blood. I find the sight of blood very repulsive, and as I looked at my finger in horror, something in me flipped. Tears started rolling down my cheeks, mingling with the rain, as a bunch of school kids on an educational excursion walked by me. These were not tears of sadness or fear, these were tears of anger pent up for a while. The umbrella incident was totally random, but it invoked a strong sense of anger in me, because it was symbolic of the helpless situation I was in. And I realized, I don’t want to be helpless anymore. I don’t want to feel like a victim, because I have not done anything that should make me feel like a victim. I am done being in this toxic situation that I am in.
And suddenly, in my head, I heard my own voice. Screw you job! Screw you visa! Screw you insecurity. I don’t have to take this. I don’t have to live in a country where I am perennially afraid of the insecurities. I don’t want a colleague suggesting me ever again, even jokingly, that I should have tried hooking up with a citizen, like many people wanting to stay here do. I am done. I am so done with this life. It is no better than being made to feel like an outcast, being asked to sit separately, like the British did to the Indians pre-independence, or higher caste people did to lower caste people.
The epiphany of “screw you” perhaps came from self-worth, and gave me more strength than anything had given me in the last few months. I have a PhD (I am told that less than 1% people have a PhD, but in America or around the world, I do not know). I am in good health. I can speak in English. I can learn. I can relocate anywhere in the world. I can do math. I can think. I have the energy. I have the courage and determination to do what it takes. I can take risks. Most importantly, I am alive. Why am I forgetting all my blessings? Why am I constantly trying to fit in? When I moved to the US eight years ago, I had nothing. And I had nothing to lose. But now, what do I lose if I don’t find a job? Absolutely nothing. I just go somewhere else, and take my skills and ideas with me. I haven’t spent a single day for the last few years when I have not worried about a visa. No self-respecting academic should ever fear that. Because wherever I go next, I take my brains, and my ideas with me. I realized that a high school dropout is perhaps more fearless than I am, armed with fancy degrees and all.
This realization gave me a lot of strength. Often under duress, we tend to think that we are helpless. We are not. This will be my chance to reinvent myself, create my future, and start a new chapter in life. I am looking for a job, but I already have enough work to sustain me for a while. Then what am I so scared of?
When I get a job, this post will be shelved as one of those inspiring notes written during crisis. If I do not, these will become words that will dissipate into nothingness. In either case, I will have nothing to lose. And that thought that I have nothing to lose is empowering in itself.