This is an essay on motivation. On drive. On purpose. On being an immigrant. It also happens to be the monthly assignment of a writing collective I belong to called the Western Writers League.
The question I am trying to answer in this post is one of drive. What’s my why.
Unfortunately, this is actually a hard question. If I had a child, it might be easier as I could just say that I want them to have a fair shot at success in life, be a good person and other likely platitudes.
This was really hard for me to answer for me and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. Truth be told, it stymied me at first. So I started to look back a bit, thinking about my childhood and my family. And I think I figured out what sits at the core of my internal motivation.
I am an immigrant. An actual immigrant. Not first generation, or second generation. I am the one who left the old country at the age of 16 in search of something bigger.
I am also the grandson of refugees. 75+ years ago my grandfather Raimund Schulzke was wandering across Central Europe in search of his mother and siblings, knowing full well that the home they had for generations was out of reach forever.
At the same time, my great grandmother Selma Boldt led her family west in search of a place where being murdered or raped because of our ethnicity wasn’t something to fear. She too understood that the home she loved and built was forever out of reach.
To be clear, I don’t begin to understand what current refugees are going through, other than to say that as an American taxpayer (who is not actually an American), I am embarrassed by this country and government. But that’s a different blog post and frankly one that as an immigrant (one who can still be detained without access to legal representation), I don’t feel safe to write and publish this country anymore. That’s sad but not what this post is about.
What drives me?
Being an immigrant drives me.
Two things about it.
One, my family sacrificed everything and started from absolute zero. Absolute zero being when all you own are the clothes on your back. While I didn’t grow up rich and contributed my fair share of hard work, my starting point wasn’t zero. I have unfathomable opportunities in life and shooting for mediocrity would be disrespectful to those who came before me. And I am not talking about financial goals. I don’t want be rich, but I do want a rich life. To me that means being location-independent, earning a comfortable income, going on adventures, farming, fishing, living healthy, having great friends, dating Carlyn and making a meaningful contribution to help make others lives better.
Two, when you’re an immigrant, your path is a lot narrower. I learned that early on. There were jobs I couldn’t get. There were jobs I couldn’t quit. There were places I couldn’t go. And there were companies I couldn’t start. My first job in America was cleaning toilets. Why? Because most Americans didn’t want that job. That was the only path I had at the beginning, one others didn’t want. I worked my way up from there, but have no doubt, it has always driven me crazy that there were opportunities out of my reach because of my nationality. So over the last couple of decades, I have been obsessed with trying to broaden that path. Now I can buy a house. Now I can start a company. The playing field is mostly level for me at this point of my life, so this second point has become less and less of a motivation for me. But it was the fuel that allowed me to achieve what I have achieved.
Maybe one day, I’ll have a child. And then I’ll become obsessed with providing them with the opportunities my great grandparents, my grandparents and my parents didn’t have. That’s what immigrants do.
Until then, I’ll keep broadening that path – step by step.
This post is part of series published through the Western Writers League. It would mean a lot to me if you took the time to read my peers’s works as well.
Why I Play by Chris Corbin