You may be fed up with the oft-repeated proverb, where there is a will there is way, but to me, it rings true every minute of the day.
In 2015, I graduated with a master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. I spent two years looking for a job but could not find one apart from part-time gigs here and there.
For those years, I worked side jobs at a gas station and in restaurants. I washed dishes, cleaned toilets, worked as a server and delivered sandwiches on a bicycle.
This may be something normal for many, especially first generation immigrants, in the West, but I think it is not easy to go through this after obtaining a graduate degree with a prestigious Fulbright scholarship.
There are many reasons why getting a job was so difficult but I don’t want to dwell on that here. What I would like to share is my attitude during these tough moments of my life.
These side jobs shattered my confidence, for sure. I felt disappointed and heartbroken. It becomes especially painful when you have no one to depend on. Many immigrant fellows will relate to this better.
However, there were a few things that I did to save myself against losing completely to this adversity. I kept a positive attitude. It is easier said than done but if you set your mind to it, it is doable. What helped me the most in keeping an optimistic view of my world were books.
I have mentioned in my previous posts on this blog the books that kept me going and emotionally alive. Thanks to Victor Frankl for his masterpiece, Man’s Search for Meaning. This book gave me the kind of optimism and perseverance that I perhaps would not be able to have on my own.
I read many other books and started writing during this time. I used to read at the gas station and in the restaurant whenever it was convenient. I remember at one point the only thing that gave me energy was the six books on the shelf in my room in Metuchen, a town bordering the Thomas Edison’s hometown in Central New Jersey.
I knew from the beginning that if I didn’t get a job, I would apply for a Ph.D. It was just about whichever comes first. Getting into a Ph.D. program was not easy either. In 2016, I applied to seven schools in the United States but was not accepted in any.
The applications cost me a lot of money, left me broke and shattered my confidence again. But I did not give up. In 2017, I applied again to six schools including two in Canada. This time, I was accepted at Rutgers University in New Jersey and at the University of Manitoba in Canada.
I chose to pursue a Ph.D. in Global Affairs at Rutgers University. When I started my Ph.D. at Rutgers, I also started teaching as a part-time lecturer of English writing there.
Lest I forget, let me say that my point is not to recount my accomplishments, but to share with you this recent journey of my life. It has been a difficult ride but totally worth it. Life is still a struggle and will always be but some moments are easier to bear than others.
Perhaps, I am in a phase now where the most difficult hurdles may be over, but life can bring surprises of all sorts anytime. In difficult circumstances, I remind myself of the little accomplishments I achieve every day while keeping my eyes on big aims.
I finished the third semester of my Ph.D. this month and passed the Quantitative Methods, which was one of the hardest classes, thanks to the support of my dear and close people. I am excited for beginning the new semester and new year, and for teaching a class as a teaching assistant, which is another huge milestone of the year.
Lastly, there are many other wonderful things that happened this year, but I will leave it at that. The lesson that I wanted to leave for you, the readers, is that don’t give up. There will be hardships in life, but always remember, “where there is a will there is a way.”
Happy New Year!