I sat down with Dr. Trudy Holmes-Caines before leaving Lincoln, Neb., and had a wonderful conversation for this podcast. She is a professor of psychology at Union College who came to the United States to pursue graduate studies. We discussed her life in Jamaica and how language plays a role in one’s identity, as well as how the immigrant cultures differ from the culture in their respective countries of origin.
Before leaving Lincoln, Neb., for good, I sat down with Michael Paradise in his office at the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church where he serves as the young adult pastor. I was curious to know what it is like to work with young adults and what made him want that job—it may have something to do with having a pretty wife.
After a fun chat, I left so he could continue eating pizza and playing worship songs on the guitar, which is basically his job description—according to him, not his employer.
We make decisions all the time: spending five more minutes in bed (or 30, who knows), taking a shower, putting off shaving one more day, heating up a slice of pizza instead of making an omelette, listening to On The Media rather than The Axe Files. I think you get the point.
Some decisions matter more than others, of course. Whether you decide to have pancakes or cereal—or both—for breakfast will be probably less consequential than marrying the struggling freelance musician—just talking about me here—or the Ivy League-educated, med school-bound white boy coming back from a year of self-discovery in Italy.
It’s difficult to know exactly where a decision will take you. You can make all the plans you want and take care of your part just fine. I didn’t know my resolution to apply for OPT—basically a limited work permit for those with F1 status—would result in the worst six months of my life.
All situations, though, come with myriad opportunities to make choices. Not the kind that will necessarily turn out good or change anything at all, but sometimes it’s not so bad to delude yourself into thinking something can be done—because sometimes, something, in fact, can be done.
My daydreaming has inspired many stupid ideas, and the idealist in me has forced me to put them into action before their novelty wears off. That’s how this and my new podcast started. That’s also the way one of my top 10 “Stupid ideas I should not pursue but will anyway” came to happen: I decided that without a single political science course in my college transcript—one with a 3.9 GPA, mind you—I’d apply to several top-notch Ph.D. programs in political science.
In a turn of events I cannot quite comprehend, I was offered admission with fellowship to the program at Rice University in Houston, Tex. Maybe someone decided to see where one of their top “Stupid ideas I should not pursue but will anyway” would lead: what happens if we let a music major into our Ph.D. program?
Thanks to one decision, the steps I took to follow through, and who knows what kind of other weird factors,* I will be answering that hypothetical professor’s question for—hopefully—the next five years (unless I fail before then).
Lastly, I made a choice to go to Target and get some milk. I guess that choice will lead me to have cereal for breakfast tomorrow.
*God, too, of course. Hold your horses!
Just like last year, I’m choosing one word to be a kind of overarching theme for this year: the verb “reinvent.” After focusing on acceptance, I feel now is a year where I will have to reinvent myself—something I don’t think I do very well.
I’m a creature of habits. My ways may not be as set and I may not be as stubborn as a 70-year-old me, but I’m quite resistant to change even if I am hesitant to admit it. Trying exotic (or not so exotic) foods, listening to new music, meeting new people, attending parties (basically any kind) are things I seldom do, and only when friends insist. Put me in a room with coffee, classical music or some Jorge Drexler and Damien Rice, books, one other person, and that does it for me. If it sounds like I could have all that in a coffee shop, there’s no reason to wonder I spent much time of my days in one.
With reinventing myself, I’m not thinking about saying yes to all the things I’ve said no to. I’m also not talking about trying new things for its own sake. The second half of this year will see me enter a completely different atmosphere from the one I know and I want to do more than just adapt—more than just change a few things to survive. Whether I attend grad school and remain in the United States or move to Mexico City, the circumstances will be quite new.
I’ve seen many reinvent themselves when things are just not working out. At least that’s my perception. Well, things have not exactly been easy this past year. Now that I accepted my “lot,” I want to take the next step.
I think I’ve started the process already, if only slightly, and I want to continue doing just that: reinventing who I am.
Happy new year!