Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Money & Me: $200 (7/12)

Much is said about desperation and opinions are polarized. Henry David Thoreau said “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things”. But desperation is a powerful force and many times it has fueled major life decisions for me. Ccoming to America was one of them.

I graduated from a top Bulgarian university with an Electronic Engineering degree. I minored in Medical Engineering. I then obtained a PhD degree in Environmental Sciences in the hope to secure a job in my field. But post Cold War Bulgaria would need tens of years to make that possible. I couldn’t wait that long.

I was tired of temporary, low paying jobs - a secretary, a seamstress, a phone operator. I was tired of unreliable public transport, power outages, cold nights and life uncertainty in general. Two years after completing my postgraduate degree, I packed my bags, used up my savings for a ticket to America and with $200 in hand I landed in Chicago. 

It was a crisp but sunny Christmas morning 1999. As the world was nearing the end of a century I was full of hope for a new and better life. Six months prior, I had applied for a National Science Foundation fellowship. The stars had aligned just right. After a couple of months in Chicago, staying with friends, taking evening classes in English, I moved to Tucson, AZ for my first full time job in America.