Growing up in communist Romania, I learned the meaning of poverty and seclusion at a young age. America was all I could hope for so I could express myself and live my dreams. Coming to the US as a graduate student opened my eyes to the reality that I could never achieve happiness and self-fulfillment without the moral support of those around, who, in a way, have replaced my family.
I tried to ignore loneliness for the longest time. It had seemed to me that America was a place where the concept of loneness did not exist. Here are people from many places, races, or social groups that it is impossible not to find a community to associate with. Unfortunately, for me the US was but an ocean in which people were isolated islands. The feeling of independence slowly turned into seclusion.
I used to tell myself that I came here for a purpose, and nothing could stray me from my path. I made very few friends. Loneliness embittered me so much that I became unreceptive and self-sufficient. I focused only on my studies. In regards to people, I perpetuated the stereotypes. When I started my Master’s program, I was determined to be selfish and quiet.
Nevertheless, one incident changed my world view completely. I suffered from a car accident in September 2006, and had surgery performed on my right upper arm to correct a bone fracture. The stipend earned as a graduate student did not afford me to go home, and my family had no means to come and take care of me here. I was completely left to the mercy of strangers.
Loneliness took another shade of meaning: depression. I was stuck inside my little overpriced apartment, haunted by somber thoughts, shook by pain, and unable to sleep. After three weeks of absolute misery that had tied me to my mattress, I felt ready to give up and return to Romania. The few friends I had made were the only people I had. I was desperately awaiting their visits and help with groceries or laundry. My temporary infirmity had impressed them to the point where they would cook for me, open bottle caps and pill flasks, help me comb my hair or pull up a pair of pants. Their friendship alone helped me out of my dark hole.
In school, others showed their support. From them, I learned to be thankful, sensible, and caring. I learned to put my faith in people. I learned that in time, those little islands in the middle of the ocean grow roots which extend and connect with each other’s and form an archipelago. Months after my recovery, I am counting my friends. They bless me every day with their affection. They share their food, their time, and their lives with me. They are my family. I came to the US for a better life. Today, I am a rich person, I am proud of my education, but mostly, I am indeed happy.
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