Coming to America: If I knew Then What I know Now, Would I Have Come To America? Part One of Two
The beginning of the year is a popular time to reflect on the past while
preening for the future. I was doing that this January when I was overcome
by the emotion of this now 30-plus year odyssey in America. As I strolled
down that memory lane, I was interrupted by a question a reader once asked
me: “If you knew then what you know today, would you have gone to
America?” The key word is “today”. And the short answer is a resounding,
“YES”! As proud as I am of my Nigerian heritage, I am delighted I came
to America, all things considered. However, this article is not about me.
Relocating is rarely smooth all the way. As Alayi people would say, “only
when one chews (not just drinks) water does one realize water has bones”.
Living in a foreign land is not for everyone. Ask any candid person who
has blazed this diaspora trail and that person will tell you it's not as
easy as it seems. However, “difficult roads [often] lead to beautiful
destinations”. If you have the dexterity, you too can make it.
There are four concurrent challenges capable of bringing Nigeria to her
knees, if not to her demise: pervasive corruption, worsening sectarian
violence, youth population and chronic unemployment explosions. Truth be
told, both the ruled and the rulers have a hand in this mess. We all want
a successful Nigeria but when the President's and Finance Minister's
relatives and innocent citizens are victims of desperate kidnappers and
other heinous criminals, you know Nigeria is truly on the verge of falling
apart, pun intended. Nigerian shortsighted leaders are target-fixated on
the precipice at national expense. Would you blame anyone trying to escape
from what one feels is a burning house or sinking boat? This article is
about that person in Nigeria who is eager to emigrate. It's for the young
man or woman somewhere today who dreams of relocating tomorrow for a
better life. If you are in that situation, this article is about and for
Success in anything hinges on good health, a plan, hard work and luck. The
top priority is to take care of Number One: Yourself. It means eating,
sleeping, exercising, and saving well. You will need your good health to
achieve your dreams. A healthy you is a wealthy you. Be sure to have both
health and life insurance, just in case. This essence is often lost in the
minds of young people who are swift in sacrificing their bodies for
short-term gains without realizing the lifetime consequences of their
youthful exuberance. Plan by reading biographies of people who have gone
through the journey you are about to embark and learn from their
experiences. And follow up with hard work and determination.
Go For It! Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by
change, per Jim Rohn. The last persons you want to listen to are the
society fat cats who cannot relate to your plight. They tell you not to
“check out”. They preach the virtues of toughing it out at home while they
send their offspring overseas for schooling and go abroad themselves for
Sisyphean as it may be, don't let anything (not even the love of country,
especially the country that does not love you as much as she wants you to
love her) dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. They tell you to stay
and perish in the toxic environment they have perpetuated. Heck no; rebel
and go for it! Yes, the love of country is a great thing; working to
better one's nation is a noble pursuit. However, don't be so desperate to
emigrate that you attempt to trek the Sahara expanse to Libya and get on a
raggedy boat or stowaway in airplane wheel well to reach the “promise
land”. Please don't take that chance; it is suicidal. Nothing is worth
Come in legally through the front door, for example, by honestly asking
smaller colleges for admission and scholarship, like Nnamdi Azikiwe did in
1920s. With the Internet you can apply to schools more efficiently. Seek
help from people in your circle of influence. Have something to offer in
return. Honesty is the key!
Make Fear Your Friend Not Your Enemy: Fear can be a prudent regulator that
helps you save yourself from yourself. Don't dread it; accept it for what
it is: False Expectation Appearing Real. FEAR. It's okay to be afraid of
moving overseas or across town or country. Develop the courage to overcome
that fear. Believe!
Per Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined”. You just might attain those dreams. Be
prepared to work harder than you ever imagined. Become your own
ambassador. Spur others to judge you by the content of your character
rather than by the color of your skin or your national origin, to
paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr. Don't inherit anyone else's sins. And
for your own sins, seek repentance and aspire for a better tomorrow.
A Different You: You'll never be the same once you leave. So soak in your
current scenery, maintain your existing friends and family. Prepare to
overcome betrayals along the road. If you are traveling abroad, know that
there are people you will never see again and those that will not see you
in this life. You need to learn to accept this painful fact. As Max Lucado
stated, “to lead the orchestra [one] must turn [one's] back on the crowd”.
Follow Your Mind.
Don't be like the professional caterpillars that mindlessly follow the
circle of starvation when food is all around them, including inside the
circle. In other words, dare to be different and don't follow others
unless you want to be like them. No one has ever achieved greatness by
following others. At times one might need to emulate others to get over a
temporary hump but to attain one's true potential, one has to be unique.
Passion and Work hard
You have to immerse yourself in your sojourn prior to setting sail.
Passion cost a little but it buys a lot! The other side of the coin is
good old hard work. Experts say passion plus hard work are the twin
ingredients for success. You can't have one without the other.
It's no small feat to move within town, state, country, continent, or
across the world. It could be relocating from Nigeria to America or from
the Bay Area to Austin or from Oakland to Pleasanton or from Atlanta to
Houston. Better neighborhood and career advancement are top two reasons
people relocate. Whatever your reasons are, be prepared to pay the price
and reap the benefits of your decision. There's no guaranty of a
successful outcome. Granted that anything can happen anywhere or any time,
it still behooves us parents to raise our family in the best environment
we can provide. If it takes moving, changing jobs, or adopting other
measures to improve your family's future, consider making the change. If
your children are keeping bad company, move them away from that negative
influence before it is too late. Your children may complain today but they
will love you for it tomorrow.
Relocation can be hampered by scarce resources and limitless challenges.
In the endless quest to escape the current living condition, people often
forget the comfort provided by being home or in a familiar environment.
“Move to a new country and you quickly see that visiting a place as a
tourist, and actually moving there for good, are two very different
things”, according to Tahir Shah of Travel with Myself fame. Or to
paraphrase Led Zeppelin, when you get there you would know all that
glitters is not gold. Still it could be your stairway to heaven. Steer
your own destiny before someone or society does it for you.
Don't be fooled by the 419, credit card, and medical scams image or news.
Nigerians are making positive contributions across the globe. According to
New York Times, “Nigerians make up less than 1 percent of the black
population in the United States, yet in 2013 nearly one-quarter of the
black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry; over
a fourth of Nigerian-Americans have a graduate or professional degree, as
compared with only about 11 percent of whites.” Some of these
overachievers abroad are the very ones Nigeria rejected at home. So if the
conditions in Nigeria are coalescing to extinguish your future, you need
to consider moving to a place that would reward your talent and hard work.
After all one “who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” You
have this one life to live.
Stay tuned for Part Two
By Chuks U.C. Ukaoma, an Old Boy of Methodist College Uzuakoli.
Austin, Texas. U.S.A.