10 years as a foreigner in the US

19554815_1305813366191815_4453863070170899218_nToday (January 26th) marks my 10th year anniversary of living in the US.

I can still remember the mixed feelings of that day: the tears of leaving family and friends behind, but with the suitcase full of dreams and expectations. I had previously spent one year in NYC as a visiting PhD student in 2003-2004, so the experience of living abroad was not completely new to me. But it was certainly different when you leave uncertain of when (if?) you are coming back.

I came to the US to work as a postdoctoral associate, and I had clear goals of working towards improving my CV and getting a tenure-track position in academia – back in Brazil. I’ve heard from several people back home how the United States was a great country to visit, but not really to live permanently. “Americans are not friendly”, “Americans are cold”, “Americans believe they are the best” – they said.

But that was not what I felt when I moved here. Yes, Americans are different from latin people. We are loud, warm, and *almost* too friendly. But Americans are friendly too! It’s just in a different way. Yes, Americans are ‘colder’ than people back home, but they give you space, and to be honest I love how people are less nosy about your life here. Americans don’t give unsolicited advice. Also, they don’t usually give unsolicited help. I guess that’s why people back home can’t understand. Americans are always willing to help – if you ask them to!

Of course I miss a lot of things from my country. Mainly family, friends, and food. Oh, and soccer! But I’ve made new friends, I’ve learned to enjoy new foods. Not sure I can ever be passionate about Football like Americans are, but I’ve learned to enjoy watching it as well. Modern technology makes it easier to keep in touch with family, and in a way our family is used to living in separate countries, as my parents are Chileans living in Brazil.

A lot have changed within those 10 years. I’ve moved out of academia. My goals and plans are way different than when I first moved. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here forever, and others as I have just arrived. Because I’ve moved in 2008, 2017 was the first year I lived in a country with a republican president. For the first time in 10 years I’ve started to rethink my choices, and ask if it is really worth continuing here. Not even after my ‘divorce’, or when our lab closed due to lack of funding – none of these made me regret moving to the US. It was a rough year, but America is the country of diversity. And I am part of this diversity, and now I can’t wait to get my citizenship next year to be able to fight for a better country! This beautiful country that received me with open arms and that I am happy to call it ‘home’.

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New Year’s theme: Openness

I was never fond of “New Year’s resolutions”. I never truly believed things could magically change from Dec 31st to Jan 1st. I believe change comes in little bits, and it sticks with persistence. I am a more impulsive type of person – it may take forever to decide and fully commit to something, but when I do, it’s a go! I quit smoking on a Thursday, by the middle of December of 2013. I started and stopped so many diets that I cannot count. Would it have been better if they had started on Jan 1st? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

However, I’ve read and listened to a couple of people advocating for a different type of New Year “resolutions”. First, Dr. Marquita Qualls (@DrQualls) rebroadcasted an episode from last year in her Beyond the Bench: STEMulating Career Conversations podcast.  The episode was about setting SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time Bound (SMART). You can (and should!) listen to the episode here.

Then I ran into this article, “Forget Resolutions—Here’s Your Blueprint for Making Next Year a Smash Hit” which suggests that you need to come up with an strategy to turn your resolutions into realized outcomes. It suggests 3 steps to come up with your strategy: 1) Reflect back (the previous year); 2) Life audit (rate yourself in several areas); and 3) Look forward (the big list/the short list).

Both the podcast and the article pleased me with the idea of reflecting about where you are and what you want – except that I do that ALL THE TIME, and if you are a long time reader of this blog, you know what I am talking about. I am in a constant rollercoaster of wanting to change everything in search of a different life, followed by feelings of guilt that I should be happy and try to improve what I have.

But today biochembelle wrote a blogpost about setting a theme for the year, instead of resolutions. I liked the idea, a theme that is general enough to guide your new year. It was not easy to come up with one, but I decided 2018 will be the year of ‘openness‘: being more open to new concepts and ideas. I am generally an easy-going person, but the older I get, the less open I am to things out of my comfort zone.

I want more openness in smaller and bigger aspects of life. Be open to different types of music, movies, books. Be open to different types of conversations and ideas. Be open to new places, new running routes. Be open to new projects, new people in my life, new relationships. I know I have been too closed-minded in many aspects of my life, to say the least, and it is definitely time to change that. So here’s to a happy new year, a happy OPEN 2018!

And to keep the blog chain opened – what will your theme be?