Life could be a hike at times. It is as if you walk on a mountainous area, following a trail, surrounded by blooming flowers and colorful trees; with the birds chirping and the river running down on a side. Suddenly you start daydreaming of the most beautiful things you want to get done in your life, and clouds become magical creations, which are quickly shaped by the design of your imagination. But abruptly, you bump into a sign that says shortcut, and you realize you are lost. You don’t know where you are. And you start questioning yourself: “What am I doing here? How did I start going this way? Why did I take this trail and not the other one? Which, from of all the ways, gets me to the end of this the easiest and fastest possible?”
Doesn’t all these sound like life sometimes? You don’t know why are you waking up for that 8 o’clock class or work. You hesitate about your career; you don’t even know if it is for you…right? But all those hesitations come to mind because we begin school, work, or a project in life, having a sense of how much we need to accomplish in order to obtain our goals, but we “fail” to realize how difficult it could be at first.
I arrived from Venezuela to the United States in 2002. My dear cousin received me warmly in his place, but that was how much he could help. I had to find for ways to contribute paying the bills, and I did so as a pizza maker and dishwasher for $250 per week, working over 12 hours per day. It took me around three years of hard work in restaurants, while improving my English in ESL classes, in order to gain the confidence to start at a community college – perhaps one the best decisions I have taken in my life.
From that decision I accomplished amazing things. I became involved in activities at LaGuardia Community College, first by joining a leadership program, and then becoming active in the Honor Society’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, which led me to the highest position of the organization: International President. Then I was able to transfer with a scholarship to City College of New York, where I co-founded the successful chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network (a student run think-tank), and I graduated with a dual major in Political Science and International Studies and a minor in Public Policy, Cum Laude.
Things weren’t always easy, though. In my freshman year I took a remedial math class that included a lab. For some reason I wasn’t happy with the lab. So I went to complaint to the director of the program, and he asked so seriously, “How can I help you?” that I pointed out, what I now know, were just excuses. He simply answered, “For things to change you must change, for things to get better you must get better.” I furiously crossed my arms, and left, thinking how was it possible I couldn’t get “my” message across. Although, overtime, those words would change me a great deal.
After talking to the math director it was like I had entered an unknown path. It felt exactly like when you go on a hike for the first time – you don’t know where it will take you. Which challenges might be there? Maybe there is a tree on the road? Are you going to jump over it, or go under it? Those are the kind of obstacles you often find in life, there is always something we have to overcome, and at the beginning little did you know that if you accept the challenge to continue the trail on a hike, it might help you change directions for better, only if you follow your passions by working hard. Then you will confidently walk along, and get to your objectives.
When I reflected on the words of the math director, I realized how powerful they were, and I looked up to follow to the road and read a sign, which said, Honors Program. It took me to Phi Theta Kappa, and from there I walked those hikes, which took me to places beyond my imagination could have ever possibly taken me.
I will leave you with this quote by Katharine Brooks:
“Every day we make choices. (Getting out of bed in time for that eight o’clock class is a choice.) And it’s not so much about whether each is a good choice or a bad choice but rather what will be the effect of your choice. Is it going to move you (and your life) forward in some way or is it going to hold you back further away from your dream? What will happen to you today because of your choices? How will the choices you make today affect you at the end of the semester or in a year? Remember, one day in your life, [especially if you decide to give that first step into your hike], can be life changing.”
It is up to you, and your talents, to make that choice. But keep in mind, that the real meaning of talent is hard work.
Edgar Romero has a dual major from City College of New York in Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Public Policy, Cum Laude. He transferred from the Honors Program at LaGuardia Community College where he completed his associate’s in Social Sciences and Humanities. Edgar has served in numerous positions: International President of Phi Theta Kappa, Board of Directors of Phi Theta Kappa, Co-Founder and Student Director of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network at City College, and Fellow of the CUNY Leadership Academy, among others. He also did an internship with the Consulate General of Venezuela in New York. He currently lives in Caracas, Venezuela.