By Johnny Nezha
Hard Truths that Need to Be Said
I wish somebody had told me, warned me, described to me what it means to grow up. I loathe being desultory, and I had a bunch of tantalizing perspectives, dreams, and goals. Now, in all honesty, my — shooting for the stars — strategy did give me some major accomplishments. When I look back at my younger self and at what I wanted to do, I have indeed exceeded my expectations. Yet, I am cursed by a perennial sense of dissatisfaction. I made some very ridiculous and pathetic mistakes. I erred there where common sense would have urged me otherwise. And I paid a hefty price for my naivete… actually, in some instances, still to this day, paying for some consequences I did not look into profoundly.
When I first got to the U.S., I was 21, fresh and juicy like a lemon, ready to explore, learn, and assimilate. At least, that was my approach. Although I still very much take delight into scheduling my life to the most minute detail, there was something I did not foresee happening.
Growing Up and Maturing
Now add some pressure into the mixture by living in a foreign country, having no one to rely on, and experiencing “adulting” in a variety of unknown alien ways to your psyche. I delayed my reaction to first-time problems. I saw them as outliers. Until these outliers started adding up. I was confused. I was baffled. I was bewildered.
Why could I not do anything right? Why am I so lost? Have I always been this incapable and stupid? “It’s my parents’ fault because they sheltered me,” I thought. It has to be, am I correct? Yeah, it has to be.
This thought process worked for a while. I was using the victimization tactic and blame throwing. “It’s the world that doesn’t work. I’m fine. I am perfect. I try my best, but the world just falls beneath my standards. People are crazy.”
Ever heard of the saying “If you ever meet more than one rude person in a day, chances are, you might be the rude person?”
So, after a cathartic, catalyzing metamorphosis, I understood things at the end. It was me. I was morphing from an overprotected childhood and that environment, originating back home in Italy, to adulting. Responsibilities. Commitments. Bills. Self-Reliance. No more mommy to remind me “Don’t forget, you gotta do your yearly physical” or “You need to go see a dentist” or my dad fixing my car for me and giving me free money every time I fell short.
I was on my knees, in pieces, while others were living their life in peace (supposedly). I was disenfranchised, disenchanted, in disbelief. Is this what it means to be an adult?
I had lived a life in excess, and drowning in entitlement, self-aggrandizement, and waste, among other things. Worst of all, I committed the felony crime of being ungrateful. I had taken my free time for granted. I had taken unconditional love for granted. I had taken putting food on the table for granted.
I now understand the frustration of my parents when they went to work all day to make a living, support our family, deal with the ubiquitous stress of unnecessary conflict, finally coming home after a 90-minute commute, and 8 hours of non-stop work. They had to clean the house, cook for the family, and then their teenager (me) that stayed home sitting on his butt all freaking day, “forgot” to take out the meat from the freezer, and dinner was delayed hours. And guess what? I still successfully managed to make it about me at any given time and controlled the narrative about how “abusive” my parents were. They had anger issues. According to me. I also had the gift of speaking well and being very verbose, so their tired minds were no match for a fool like myself.
Aaaah, did I live to regret this. I actually live to regret this. Karma did not spare a dime in teaching me, 1 by 1, second by second, everything I did wrong in my youth.
Karma: “You think you a tough guy, huh, Johnny? Well, show us now buddy…. Off with your support system.”
Living in the U.S. — studying in the U.S. — will not just be learning about your major of choice. I wish it were that simple. No. No. No. No. Baby. You are in for a ride that will stretch the furthest corners of your imagination. You will study about life, and how cruel it can be. Sure, nice things exist, and chances are America will be the closest thing for you to achieve them. But America will make you work for it. Go hard or go home. Keep that in mind before rejoicing in statements “Ha! I made it, I’m going to the U.S.”
Congratulations on your acceptance letters, I-20s, and all the visas your heart desires. But, be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. And you might not like it.
All the Best!
Johnny Nezha is an Albanian-born, Italian-raised, marketing student at Los Angeles City College. He loves technology and the power of its innovation, is the founder of a startup called Khleon, and his non-work hobbies are skywatching and astronomy.
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