Last year marked a personal milestone: the 20th anniversary of what I like to call my odyssey in the United States. Truth be told, my heart was filled with gratitude as I reminisced about this remarkable journey called life over the past several years. Despite the numerous hurdles and trials that America presents daily, this cultural mosaic has bestowed upon me immeasurable blessings. It has offered me transformative opportunities beyond anything I could have ever imagined in my birth country. Thankfully, I am not one of the lost souls trapped in the soft underbelly of America’s overpowering pop culture. And so, even though I “Japa,” one still manages to “Kapa.”
My journey began with an unexpected twist, steering me away from my original plans and leading me towards an unforeseen destination. The United States was never part of my envisioned path; it didn’t even enter the equation, not because I was not obsessed with “God’s own country” like most people my age. It was for the simple reason that America, for me at the time, was outside the realm of possibility.
There were moments when my friend Emeka and I would joke about embarking on a flight to one of the many Caribbean nations, only to swim fearlessly across the vast ocean to the United States, bravely facing down any sharks that dared to threaten us. Such flights of fancy served as lighthearted amusement, a whimsical escape from the limitations we perceived.
Freshly graduated from medical school and disheartened by the scarcity of opportunities at home, I eagerly enrolled in a German language program at the Goethe Institut, nestled in the highbrow neighborhood of Ozumba Mbadiwe, in Victoria Island. This pathway was meant to be my gateway to relocate abroad, a quest to uncover the fabled Golden Fleece.
You see, the disillusionment with Nigeria’s abysmal leadership, which prompted Andrew to “check-out” has been an enduring struggle for successive generations of Nigerian youths. We have persevered through what can only be described as years devoured by swarming locusts. But, to spare you the arduous details, I completed the language course with flying colors and secured admission to a few notable post-graduate schools in Germany.
I was on the cusp of embarking on this long-awaited voyage when an unforeseen turn of events abruptly shattered my dreams. All it took was a Visa interview at the German Embassy, an encounter with a dashing blonde, lasting less than 15 minutes. In that brief span of time, my years of anticipation and hope came crashing down around me.
The sting of being denied the visa was not solely about the rejection itself; it was the immense sacrifice and lost opportunities that accompanied it—the true cost of pursuing my dream of leaving Nigeria. I willingly relinquished more financially rewarding job offers to relocate to Lagos, squeezing myself into a diminutive living space, all for the sake of attending the school that promised to unlock the doors to international travel and a life abroad. The blow was devastating.
There is no doubt in my mind that the missed opportunity to travel to Germany in the past is intricately linked to the circumstances that eventually paved the way for me to live and work in the United States today. Of course, there was no way to figure it all out when I was immersed in the depths of despair over the visa denial. At the time, none of these connections or possibilities made sense to me at all. But hindsight grants us perfect vision.
This story embodies a profound lesson on the significance of embracing the journey rather than fixating solely on the destination. It serves as a powerful reminder to awaken each morning with revitalized hope and unwavering determination. In those pivotal moments when hope falters and the path ahead seems overwhelming, we must remember that the universe aligns in our favor when we wholeheartedly embrace our relentless pursuit. It is during these transformative moments that our true strength and resilience are revealed.
Failure, as we are often reminded, is not a terminal defeat. It is through daring to face failure that we unearth hidden treasures and invaluable lessons. In fact, someone once wisely remarked that what we perceive as failure is simply an opportunity to acquire new experiences. During my time at the Goethe Institut, I found myself surrounded by teenagers fresh out of secondary school who astonishingly grasped the language faster than I did. It was undoubtedly humbling, yet it offered me a profound lesson in humility.
True character after all, is not forged in comfort and tranquility. It is through trials and tribulations that the soul is fortified, ambition is ignited, and triumph is ultimately attained. As Helen Keller, the revered American author, aptly stated, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
It is within the twists and turns of our paths that we uncover invaluable lessons, forging resilience and fortitude in the face of challenges. Every step forward becomes a testament to our unwavering spirit and an unyielding commitment to our aspirations. We come to realize that the pursuit of our dreams is not merely a singular event, but a continuous pilgrimage that shapes and molds us along the way. Failure and dissapointment are two of the surest stepping stones to success, said Dale Carnegie.
In retrospect, I can only speculate about the path my life would have taken if everything had fallen into place according to my initial plan. Perhaps I would still be residing in Germany, having possibly entered a marriage of convenience with an older foreign woman to secure my residency. I may even have forsaken the practice of medicine altogether. While I was aware of these potential scenarios playing out, the precariousness of the situation back home even then was such that a fresh medical graduate was willing to make such trade-offs in search of better opportunities.
Thankfully, life possesses a remarkable ability to shatter our meticulously designed plans, often for our own benefit, even if its wisdom eludes us in the immediate moment. This is what led Woody Allen to humorously remark, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
To all my young companions, I implore you to place your unwavering trust in the voyage itself while firmly embracing the hustle. But above all, remember that failure is not a fatal blow. For it is within this transformative odyssey that life reveals its magnificent splendor.
Osmund Agbo writes from Houston, Texas. Email: [email protected]