As an immigrant, growing up in the United States was difficult. But it wasn’t nearly as difficult for me as it was for my dad. He always told us that it was a country filled with hope and opportunity.

Coming from a poorer family, my dad had systematically de-risked a trip to this land of opportunity by accruing 6 months of paid leave over the course of nearly a decade. He figured that if he wasn’t able to make something of himself within those 6 months then he could return home to continue working as a Nuclear Physicist¹.

Unfavorable circumstances saw his entire safety net removed from under him when a month into his trip, new management back in India decided to fire him instead of paying him the rest of his leave. Leave that he had rightfully earned. With two young kids and a wife² depending on him, he had to succeed.

Walking 6 miles to and from the library each and everyday and living out of friends apartments; my dad learned how to develop software receiving a number of certifications from Microsoft. Even still he wasn’t employed, and his English wasn’t great.

Quickly finances became tough, and the people closest to him started to shut him out, call him a failure, look down upon his hard work. Imagine moving to a new country having your savings ripped out from under you and having those closest to you shut you out. But you do what you have to for the people you love, no matter what.

He worked as an unpaid intern day and night at his friend’s contracting agency and finally after 6 months, worrying about being unable to borrow money to even purchase a return ticked to India, he got a job. A glimmer of hope through a sea of desperation. Now that he’d seen the light, he wouldn’t let it go.

Working 100+ hour weeks and getting paid pennies for it. He single-handedly architected and built a billing infrastructure used for years to come. What he couldn’t say, he made up for with his work. Never once did he complain or whine. Never once did he stop thinking about the ones he cared about the most.

Eventually, he saved up enough money to buy a car, a house, and bring us (my mother, my sister and I) to the states.

However, his “success” came at a price. A gallbladder surgery followed by chronic high blood pressure, weakened him physically. It was always hard for him culturally. A gentle giant, he was and still is misunderstood a lot. His love at times was suffocating, but understandable.

Going through an experience as stressful as his, changes you. It’s harder to relate to anybody else afterwards. The everyday stresses of life seem trivial when compared to the desperation at the time, yet he still makes that effort. He doesn’t enjoy seeing anyone in pain; not even watching his own kids get vaccinated. Maybe it’s due to the pain he’d experienced growing up³.

Was it worth it? That’s for history to decide.

But some life lessons that stuck from that moment in time:

  • To be frugal.
  • To be humble.
  • To work hard.
  • To help others.
  • To care for those around us.

PS: My dad is a very reserved man, this story has been pieced together with the bits of information I’ve picked up over the last decade, with first hand witness testimony from my mother and others around him.

[1] The story of how my dad got his doctorate degree is an interesting one, and saved for another article.

[2] My mother was a very special, extremely attentive and supporting figure in my sister’s and my life. She shielded us, and made us feel like we lived an extremely normal life. She was the key to our confidence later on in our lives and a definite upcoming article.

[3] Though coming to the states was a difficult journey, my dad is no stranger to difficulty. His childhood wasn’t an easy one and a perfect story for an upcoming article.

Learning is Misunderstood — Opinions are my own.