I read a NYT Magazine article about an Eritrean woman’s struggle for legal status in Israel. She walked through the desert to illegally enter Israre el and due to her lack of status forced to work menial jobs for substandard wages. Eventually she was given the unpalatable choices of being relocated to a prison camp in the Negev desert, sent back to Eritrea to face likely execution or being given a $3,500 stipend and a plane ticket to Rwanda. She chose door number 3 and faced a similar situation when she arrived in Rwanda and was ultimately forced to Uganda where she continues to face a permanent alien existence cast off the the margins of society reviled as a refugee and scorned as a transient leech. A similar fate faces millions of other displaced individuals around the world.
I was born on Queens Boulevard in St. John’s hospital. By pure chance and the grace of God I entered the world as a bona fide citizen of the United States of America with all of the rights and privileges thereof. By inalienable birthright I was bestowed with the protection of the most advanced armed forces the world has ever seen, granted the freedom to be anything I wanted to be, in the most financially sophisticated and culturally envied city on earth. To boot I am also Chinese which added 5,000 years of history creating a cultural emphasis on education, a genetic predisposition to risk and entrepeneurship along with a healthy dose of bilingual ability.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, my parents grew up in Mozambique adding an additional layer of global perspective and a dash of European influence to my upbringing making for a natural icebreaker in social situations.
All of these factors gilding my existence before I drew my very first breath. It almost seems unfair to have so many advantages thrust upon a single individual. Yet growing up I didn’t realize that all of these gifts had already been bequeathed upon me. Rather I grew up with a giant chip on my shoulder aspiring to attain an elusive wealth I believed was requisite to my significance as a human being.
Instead of embracing the cornucopia of advantages I had coming out of the gate, I relentlessly pursued that which I did not need. The result has been complete and utter disaster and I am sitting in the aftermath of a squandered lead, a misguided youth and an uncertain future. If only there was a mulligan card in life.