“I am going to America“, I muttered to my family of five while having dinner at our rented home during a hot Delhi summer of 2008. All of a sudden, a deep silence, screaming fear, frustration, and failure yelled back at me through those eyes.
Those were the eyes of my dad, mom, brother, and sister. I still remember those eyes. There were no questions from any of us because we all knew the answer. It was not possible considering our financial situation.
We were already under heavy debt as my dad lost his business. We were barely making month to month. So, I decided to remain quiet that night! But in my heart, I knew that I am going to America – the land of freedom and dream chasing!
The next morning while I was getting ready to go to college, my mother pulled me to a corner in our kitchen so nobody could hear us. She told me that she is on my team and she has some jewelry and she could sell them.
Selling my mom’s jewelry? No way, but it seemed at the time that, that was our only option. The money from her jewelry would be sufficient for my one-way flight ticket and a couple of months of survival cost in America.
Here I was, a young 20 years old, a naive stupid boy who has watched “The Pursuit of Happyness” a million times and thought he can pull it all by himself. Guess what, I somewhat did pull it.
I would attend college during the day and do a call center gig at night. I used public transportation, drank 2c street-side water, ate 40c meals, and used to stay in cheap lodging. I even stayed with a group of Chinese Christian missionaries in a church guesthouse in Gurgaon.
I was able to save money to buy a one-way flight ticket. With hard work comes luck. I found a university that would transfer my college credits to US Universities and gave me 50% tuition scholarship if I kept up my GPA above 3.0. North Dakota State University (NDSU), Fargo accepted me.
It was one of the coldest places in the country. NDSU was offering me all the goodies, financial aid and 6 months of snow. I said, “I’ll take it. I’ll adapt, survive, and thrive.” By the summer of 2008, I was all set to attend NDSU beginning Spring 2009 session.
I have managed to save enough money for a one-way flight ticket, visa expenses, and to survive the first couple of months. I landed my feet in New York, America on Jan 4, 2009.
For next 3.5 years, I took various odd jobs to survive such as cleaning job/ushering, donating blood plasma for a minimum wage, selling soaps door to door (thanks to Amway), and sharing a 3 bedroom apartment between 5 students (with a stunning rent of $108pp).
My college sweetheart broke off, I graduated in spring 2012 with $17,000 in debt (Failure #1092), I was killing it. Not soon after, my college sweetheart broke off with me. I went through and understood what “depression” really means. I happily graduated in spring 2012 with $17,000 in debt and 1092 failures behind me. You can see, I was killing it.
Two months post-graduation, I got a contracting job with Dell Services. To save money to pay off my debts, I chose to sleep on the carpet in a shared unfurnished apt with a whopping rent of $206 pp. I waited on buying a car and instead took 2 hours long train to commute. I was able to pay off the bulk of my debts in 6 months. That was my trade-off, savings over self-sacrifice.
The end result, I was relaxed and at peace. I saved quite a lot, switched my gigs and moved out to Orange County, California. I soon bought a brand new luxury car, rented a beach condo, and I was on top of the dating scene. This time, I was really nailing it until I got a phone call from home at 4:30 am.
My mother was crying on the other side that Dad is on a ventilator from the past 9 days and has got a poor outlook on survival. She didn’t ask me to come back because she knew that my visa won’t allow me to travel to India and return back to the U.S.
I had just turned 25 the day before, but after that phone call, I suddenly felt like a 40 years old man surrounded in a bubble of stress. All kinds of stress. What happened? Where did it all go wrong? I was frustrated, scared, sad, and numb.
My decision was clear and I wanted to stay in the US and add value to society. I knew I want to do something with my life. I knew I want to live in a free land. So I exercised the law of attraction. I took immediate action, whatever I could do. I spoke to multiple doctors for the best treatment for my dad. I remained positive and calm.
Fourteen days later, my dad made it back to life and arrived home with a smile. However, during this time I lost my job and was back to square one. I had exhausted my savings. I was back to square “none”.
Luckily, the unique skills set that I have developed in the healthcare industry, it wasn’t hard for me to find a new job. I found a new contract within 6 weeks and took the first flight to North Carolina when I heard back about my job offer.
I started all over again but this time besides my 9 to 5, I had a side gig too for some passive and side income. You see, in this economy, it is not wise to put all your eggs in the “job basket.” Would you? If you have no savings?
In December 2014, I visited India after 5 years. When I returned after almost half a decade, so much has changed. I bought a new house for my parents, returned jewelry to my mother, and just enjoyed family time.
My younger sister has grown so much. Wow, it has been 5 years. With that visit, I also knew that it will be a long time since I’ll see them again, thanks to the system, BS. But when the time came to return, I also knew that it will be again a long time before I’ll see my family, thanks to the broken immigration system.
It takes over 10-15 years for regular people from India to immigrate to the U.S. And during this long wait time, people often don’t see their family for years. This is BS. In October 2015, I decided to quit my well-paying job to join US Army Reserves.
I had the following in my mind:
- I’ll have a chance to become a US Citizen.
- I want to give back to the country that has served my dreams.
- I was craving to succeed and achieve a milestone after a million failures.
- I know that Army training can push me harder and make me a better leader.
- Good can go bad but only greatness leads to greatness. Being good was not good enough.
- I have a strong desire to inspire and give hopes to the underdogs, scared and lonely people out there.
And this was the perfect platform. I love America! Indeed, the USA is a land of opportunities. Anyone can make it here if they are willing to work hard and sacrifice. I have made my dreams come true. A new set of dreams and goals have now evolved for me. It was a relentless pursuit, be it good or bad.
I am grateful for every single event which has contributed to nurturing the seeds of past actions to successful fruition.
So come and join me to celebrate a day of triumph over the failures, the success that comes from the hardship, hope to a better future and a shout out to the land of the free and home of the brave.
Now I can visit back home (to India) every year just to celebrate festivals, eat my mom’s food, take care of my father, and to sleep in my childhood bed. May 24th, 2016, I was naturalized through the US Army Reserves.
I am a US Citizen now. And, I am ready to continue my journey to greatness.
Guest Post by Mukul Jain. Edited by The Art of Travel for clarity. All rights reserved.
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