“Nos trataron de enterrar, pero lo que no saben es que somos semillas.”
My mom once told me this when I was a little boy, and for reasons very much known to me, this memory refuses to be forgotten.
The phrase translates to, “They tried to bury us, but what they don’t know is that we were seedlings.” If you asked me where I see myself ten years from now, I would probably give you a concrete answer, say “nevermind”, and then name a profession in a completely separate field. To be frank, I have probably changed my future plans this past year more times than I can count. It’s due in part to the classes I’ve taken, part limitations placed upon my citizenship status, and part the passions that lure me. In this blog I will try my best to explain how these three factors push and pull me in different directions, and cause me to feel like I am trapped in a raging whirlwind.
When I applied to Duke, I applied as a chemistry major with the goal of becoming a doctor. You see, chemistry really intrigued me in high school, and I was very good at it too. However, from the time I was accepted to Duke and arriving on campus, I decided that my passion was elsewhere. I entertained the idea of studying public policy, and eventually applying to law school to work with immigration law. I felt as if I was expected to do that; it made sense to my friends, it made sense to my parents, and most of all, to me. I ended up registering for a few public policy classes my first semester at Duke, but I quickly realized that this path was not for me. The material felt bland; I wasn’t intrigued by anything I learned in those classes, and I felt myself more drawn to the STEM courses I was enrolled in. There were just so many reasons for me to drop this pre-law fantasy I had manifested. The main reason was the huge risk I was taking; I can’t be a practicing lawyer in any state as long as I’m undocumented, but I kept telling myself that by the time I graduated law school I’d be at least a resident. When Donald Trump was elected, I drew the last straw, and stuffed away any dream I had of ever becoming a lawyer. At the time, I figured it was for the best. I enjoyed math and computer science a lot more, and a statistics major enjoyed an almost perfect employment rate. It seemed like a no-brainer to me.
So, during second semester of freshmen year I took almost exclusively STEM courses, and I enjoyed it so much more. Math and computer science felt natural to me; I performed extremely well in those classes, and I truly knew that I wanted to continue on this path. I can see myself in various different professions, from a consultant to a researcher, maybe even a professor. There’s an entire world out there for me, and it’s mine to take. However (yeah, there’s always a however), I feel something is missing. Sitting here typing this blog post, I feel an emptiness inside me. I feel like the part of my heart that stores my passions is malnourished, and is clamouring for me to feed it. This summer, working with low-income, minority immigrants and helping them claim their right, has confused me even more, because I realize how much this kind of work means to me. However, my current path doesn’t leave much space for working in civil rights after college, in trying to subvert current immigration policy, or helping immigrants get back onto their feet. I feel like a magnet pulled in many different directions by multiple forces.
I am not the kind of person to normally ask for help of any sort. My mom taught me to be independent at young age. She also taught me to take care of myself and my brother. In this country, she and my brother are all I’ve got. That is why I ultimately need to do what will protect us, and unfortunately, protection comes in the form of money in this country. Therefore, it is my ultimate plan to secure a well-paying job after pursuing a graduate degree. You know, people tell me to “follow my passion” when I discuss my dilemma to them. In a perfect world, I’d probably pursue a law degree. However, the world is not perfect, and I would rather set aside my dream career if it means that I would have a secure job to support my family. I have realized that my biggest passion rests in my family. It may seem incredibly selfish, but I have learned that I have to take care of myself and the ones I love before I worry about others.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “Jose, you don’t need a humanities degree to attend law school.” I am very much aware of this, and that is why I actually plan on applying to law school. So if I you ask me where I see myself in ten years, I could give you a drawn out explanation that explains why I don’t know, or I could simply say a lawyer, a statistician, or a data analyst. I suppose that if I could classify any of my problems as “First World Problems,” it would probably be this one. Yes I know how privileged it must sound to complain about stuff like this. “Oh poor Jose complaining about having too many opportunities”. Yeah I’ve gotten this response before; some people simply can’t look past the surface of things. Well I promise you that “having too many opportunities” is not why I experience constant stress and anxiety about my future. Yo no sé, I feel like I need to stop worrying so much and just trust myself and my instincts. All this constant worrying is dragging me down, and I feel like the best thing for me now is to continue doing my own thing.
I want to end this blog by saying that I know it is expected that I write about the work I am doing this summer and about the things I experience. However, while I truly enjoy working with Legal Services of Miami, I feel the need to write about the things I experience and the thoughts that run through my mind.