August 7, 2012, was the day when I first walked on the American soil. Every immigrant to the US remembers this date verbatim.
That moment when the officer at the window examined my INS documents, took my biometrics, looked at my face one last time before stamping the passport and when he said "Welcome to the United States" - I knew this was for real.
Today as I write this (on January 29, 2017), I've spent exactly 1,637 days in the United States. That's 4 years, 5 months, and 23 days in the land that has helped me to redeem myself, create multiple paradigm shifts, and most important, inspired me to embrace my inner curious child and live my truth.
My time in America has been a series of experiments and based on those experiences, below are 101 things I love about living in the US of A.
I. The Public Library System - When I discovered that I could check out books for free for 21 days, my instant reaction was like a kid probably feels when she gets a free unlimited pass to Disney Land.
Today, all thanks to the Cincinnati Public Library that reading has become a life-long habit for me.
II. The Topographical Landscape - I'm grateful to have been able to walk across 44 US States. The American topography is awe-inspiring.
From the countryside to the hustle-bustle of the cities; from the marvelous creations of Mother Earth like the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and the Appalachians to the pristine New England side and the soul-filling vibe in the South - America taught me the joy and learning that comes with traveling.
III. Just Do It - Not only is America the home to Nike, I truly believe that this is the place for any human being to do whatever they want to do in their life. I've had some of my wildest goals (or more of 'things I want to do before I die') come true that I would have never thought it to be possible back where I come from.
America is truly the land of infinite opportunities which does not discriminate on the basis of caste, color, sex, religion, nationality against anyone who is willing to take actions.
If you want to do something, if you have an idea - whether it's an idea of a company or a movement, anybody can go and take actions with the resources this country has made available to the people living here.
IV. Paradigm Shifts - This is the place where I was able to let go of some of my belief-systems that were not serving me.
Internationals who come to the US on a student Visa have a dynamic that makes it a bit challenging for them to be hired by any company. This thought bothered me for quite a few years as I'm also on a F-1 Visa.
But then the following lines just crushed that belief-system -
"If you think about one's life, most people spend most of their time on defense, in reactive mode, in playing with the cards they got instead of moving to a different table with different cards." - Seth Godin
As I'm about to graduate with my Master's in Chemical Engineering, I'm excited about the endless possibilities in front of me.
If you're reading this and happen to know someone at AirBnb, I'd really be grateful for an introduction. You can reach out to me at +1-513-223-1217.
V. Virtual Mentors - I come from India where we have over a billion people. May be it was my ignorance or lack of patriotism, I never connected with the thoughts and ideology of any Indian leader.
But the moment I stepped into the USA, I got exposed to a huge wisdom of knowledge from people I today call them as my 'Virtual Mentors'. Everything that I know in life today is either through the experiences I've had or through the teachings of my virtual- and a few in-person-mentors.
My virtual mentors have inspired and challenged me to always strive to become the better version of myself and never stop learning and keep growing.
Below is a semi-exhaustive list of my virtual mentors -
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Daniel H. Pink
Dominic D' Agostino
Daniel G. Amen
VI. A Culture that Embraces Creativity, Curiosity and where Mistakes & Failures are a norm - Back in India, I would be scared out of my pants to get a 'F' in my report card. I was driven by fear to succeed in school than being driven by curiosity that I've witnessed in the US.
This is my 10th semester in graduate school. A Master's degree usually needs 4-5 semesters. I hope you get what I'm trying to say here.
I've also had the opportunity to work in the Cincinnati K-12 school systems. The kids are encouraged to create, to experiment, to solve problems by looking upon them as challenges, to take actions, to not be afraid of making mistakes.
Americans may not be as good as the Chinese or the Indians when it comes to Math and Science but from my experience, they are hands down one of the most creative individuals I've met when it comes to real life situations.
VII. Entrepreneurship is in the blood of the people - I believe that's the core reason why Silicon Valley is in the US and not in China or Russia or India or France.
Back home, I could never fathom about making my own money at the age of 8 selling lemonade. Neither could I imagine having a part-time job while getting my college degree. These were just not a part of the system.
And most important, America taught me that being an entrepreneur doesn't necessarily mean you need to own your own company. Entrepreneurship is about solving people problems at its core. And then the other characteristics of a great entrepreneur is his ability to lead with a vision and have people to follow and execute on that vision.
Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Square, AirBnb, Uber - could there be a cause and effect of the unicorn companies coming out of the US because of the entrepreneurial blood in the people? That's my hypothesis here.
I had never sold a single thing until the age of 22. During my first semester at University of Cincinnati, I had a big parking lot in my rented unit which was also the closest house to the campus.
The cheapest University Parking was $250 per semester. I spent like 30 minutes to write a compelling with supporting pictures of my lot and rented out 2 spots for $150 per semester in a week.
And BAM! An entrepreneur was born.
VIII. The DIY Culture - During my first semester, I got a bike out of Craigslist and got a flat tire on the 2nd day. Back home, I would normally pay 25 cents and the bike shop will fix it.
But in the US, I got to learn how to fix a flat tire within an hour. That led to a serious of experiments where I, for the first time in my life, learned how to use my hand to build and/or fix something. Changing the windshield of my 2002 Ford Escort ZX2 is just one of the feats.
I believe the DIY culture also contributes to the abundance of creativity that one can find in the United States - whether it's in the neighborhood art work or among the people themselves.
Also, is it just a coincidence that Etsy started out of USA? Handmade goods traded for over centuries.
IX. Anyone can Challenge the Status Quo - Donald J. Trump is the 45th POTUS. Period!
This is a country where the status quo is just a thing that exists but you're not bound to have to follow that. I'm grateful for this as it has given me the freedom to experiment and unleash my inner curious child.
X. Convenience - While my personal experience with this is limited to shopping for my grocery and on Amazon for now, but this is a place where you can get whatever you want, whenever you want - at your convenience as long as you're willing to write a check for that service or product.
I think this also ties up with #7 where people with a strong entrepreneurial DNA tend to leverage this consumer behavior (of the need for instant pleasure) to monetize their offerings.
I got no complains here as I get absolutely delighted when Amazon delivers my orders on the same day, right at my door step.
XI. People are mostly nice - Prejudices exist anywhere you travel in the world. Yes, I've experienced racism and people downright shutting their ears because they were unable to decipher my accent.
But that doesn't stop me from being a cheerleader for the 100s of Americans who have been so nice to me - whether it was for a shorter-period of time or the few people who are in my adopted American family.
Oh and Black people - I love Black people. And I believe they are the most fun-loving people in this country.
In fact, if I ever end-up doing stand-up comedy, my first gig is going to be called - "I Ain't Afraid of No Black People" where I'll share my experience in the US breaking all past prejudices about the African American community that I had gotten from multiple sources before actually talking to them in real.
XII. The Roads are Awesome - Seriously, if you're an American and don't realize how amazing your roads are, just go travel in India or ask your Indian friend some stories of how one can get a great back massage just by riding on a motorbike on the roads.
Driving 11,988 miles in 24 days - that thing would be impossible to do at least in my home country.
XIII. Great Healthcare System - Yes, it may not be perfect with all the medical debt one can incur and other challenges that exists at a macro level. But the American healthcare system is still way better that you won't die because of lack of services.
One day I found out I had a big lymphoma on my right groin. The next thing you know, I was in the surgery room at 11am and back home by 7pm on the same day.
Dr. Jerry Friemoth helped me get testosterone tests along with other blood tests that would cost thousands of dollars at no cost just because he liked my passion for health and well-being.
XIV. The Rise of the Health & Well-Being Movement - I like the fact that Americans are finally waking up to their stupidity on how they ended up exploding (by eating crap in the name of food for decades).
While epidemiological studies still have scary projections for the 2050 obesity levels, but the numerous public health initiatives and movements happening in the country tells me that there is still hope to make America fit again.
XV. Cars are very affordable - I'm a graduate student who's owned 2 used cars - a 2002 Ford Escort and a 2001 Honda Civic. This thing is unheard of back in India. It ain't about being rich. Cars are just affordable in the US. And I ain't complaining either.
XVI. The Obsession with Efficiency and Productivity - May be some people don't like being obsessed with it. But I think when you are at your most efficient and productive levels - that's also where your brain is able to function at its peak state because it doesn't have to worry about making small decisions and thus it can think of solving bigger and more challenging problems.
Thanks to Tim Ferriss who got me into this game.
XVII. Fostering the Self-Help Mindset - I don't know about you but I love self-help. In fact, isn't every help a form of self-help?
Because even when you help someone else, you end up helping yourself by getting the derived benefits of feeling happier that you were able to help someone.
I read Tony Robbin's - Awaken The Giant Within, cover to cover, and if I had to give one book to someone who has big aspirations in life, I'd request him to read this book word-by-word and take actions and do all the exercises and challenges Tony has described in the book.
If you're on the fence about Tony's teachings, start with the documentary 'I Am Not Your Guru' before you get into his materials. It's on Netflix.
XVIII. Comedy - Louis CK has got to be the most honest person alive on earth at the moment. John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Conan O' Brien, Bill Maher, the Late George Carlin - it's been only an year that I discovered these folks.
Today I don't have any excuse not to laugh on a daily basis.
XIX. The Bulk-Food Section and Self-Checkout - Oh boy this one gets me all excited a I get to smell, touch, feel the food as I do my grocery. I love the bulk section because it saves me money but most importantly, I can get what I want, how much I want, do it all by myself and then even go and checkout on my own.
I don't know about you but boy, as an immigrant, I find this fascinating. Oh, I forgot about the Farmers Markets. Love them too.
XX. The English Language - My mother tongue is Nepali and I grew up learning 4 more languages including Hindi, Oriya, Bengali, and English.
But it wasn't until I came to the US that I got to tap into the power of the English language which is an action oriented language.
I've noticed that today I think, reflect, and even pray in English which just tells me that my brain is loving it.
XXI. Gasoline - It's cheap.
XXII. The American Passport - It lets you into 166 countries visa-free or visa on arrival.
I spent over 250+ man-hours to get the US Visa stamp on my passport. Thanks to this country, I know traveling is in my blood and if you know even a bit about the immigration rules, it gets boring after a while to do the Visa application over and over for the countries around the world.
XXIII. Technology is Changing Human Behaviors - This is also something I see prevalent in the US. Just look at what companies like AirBnb, Uber, Netflix, Google are doing. Witnessing this first hand - both from a practical-user side and also from the technical business side has fueled me with excitement, energy, and passion that tomorrow is going to be another awesome day to be alive in this earth.
Well yes... global warming sucks. But hey, doesn't that give an opportunity for us to brainstorm solutions and solve the challenge instead of blaming the government?
XXIV. The Montessori Education - From May 2013 - May 2015, I had the opportunity to work with K-12 teachers in a National Science Foundation-University of Cincinnati research project called CEEMS.
That was when I first got exposed to the Montessori Education system. And boy, was I impressed?
In my first day of class, I saw kids coming in front of the whiteboard and laying on the floor with their backs to the ceiling, supporting their head with their 2 hands while listening to the teacher's explanation of the Engineering Design Process.
I remember my school days where I excelled at rot memorization and ran away when it was time to get creative and brainstorm to solve challenges. But my experience working with the kids in the Montessori schools along with all the schools which participated in the CEEMS program created an inspiring impression of what the US has to offer to someone who's willing to learn.
XXV. People Mind Their Own Business - This is great because 'you' as a doer don't have to worry about what the other person is thinking. You can continue to tinker around on your ideas and keep trying new things.
I said 101 things but I'm going to stop here and continue on this later and keep adding to this list.
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