August fourth will mark nine years from the day I got off a plane in Miami. It's funny how I seem to remember things, people, feelings, emotions, colors and smells from that first period so vividly. Better than anything that happened after. So much hope for the amazing things to come. So much curiosity about stranger In a way it started with Andrew. He's one of my oldest American friends and the first one I have made outside of law school. I believe he was also the youngest person I've ever befriended. Years ago we were just getting started. He was in his first weeks of being an undergrad and I was beginning my law program. We bumped into each other at the student activity building called the Reitz Union as we both were looking not only to find something to do, but also our place in this city. Last week I've got a message from him. As he was about to leave Gainesville for good in two weeks he wanted us to finally go see a scary movie together, something we agreed on a few years ago, but never actually got to do. He always said he liked horrors, but was too afraid to go alone to which I responded that I'd be happy to accompany him anytime. This weekend it finally happened. We haven't seen each other in quite a few years. He was three shades lighter than I remembered- it must have been all those years of being a scientist, because he ended up getting two additional engineering degrees from UF. But now, as he's done with school he's about to embark on a new journey- a job in Califormia, on the other coast, where movie tickets and food are twice as expensive. There was something poetic about wanting to spend your last moments in town with the people you started off with and I appreciated the sentiment. That was 2004. It's 2013 today. The first years in America were some of the most exciting times of my life. I've had so much energy, passion and naivety. When I think about what happened in my life here, if I had to describe in one word, I'd say "struggle". Struggle with immigration. Struggle getting back into law school. Struggle to get anyone to listen. The frustration. The fear. How can you maintain optimism, when there is nothing to feel good about? Yes, there were moments of fun, but too few in in between. When I think about what I remember from the last nine years, I have to say that I have a pretty good recollection of it until 2006/07 and then it feels like the next thing I knew it was 2011. A lot of mundane days just lumped together. The same thing, the same places, the same faces week after week. I stuck to it with no guarantees it would never get better and I can't tell you why. I guess I'm just that stubborn. It's been many years since I met someone on the street and told them my life story. People were excited to hear that I'm from Poland, in la school and how I moved here by myself. I used to have those amazing moments where I meet a stranger and we have a heart to heart moment swapping life stories. It used to leave me with an incredible feeling, uplifted, as if I connected to another human being. But then I guess, I got bored with my story. It started to feel like something I recited, I would hear my voice and it sounded like something separate from me. There has to be more to me than my story! But then, a few hours after the film I decided to walk by a local pub. Some friends I recognized where talking to a young guy I've never met. You know the type- idealistic, opinionated and full of ideas. Years ago I used go get very much inspired by people like that until I realized that they were simply very young and the passion comes from books and not life experience. "I believe life is simple" he said, but unfortunately he uttered these words in the presence of a soldier, a young man who ended up on the streets and myself. And we strongly disagreed. "You feel like you want to say something"- one of the others said to him -"Explain yourself" "I'm not letting you leave until I hear your story". And so we ended up sitting in front of the pub for the next four hours talking about our lives. And there was more to his than he gave away. And I told him about my struggles. About my fight and plight and how in many respects I feel like something was taken from me, something I can never get back. How it was 2006 and then I woke up one day and it was 2013. But some of it felt like the old times. The pub behind us had long closed down. They had tidied up inside and turned off the lights yet three men were still sitting in front of me on the ground in the parking lot. It was six am and I was falling asleep, yet I wouldn't be disrespectful to others and their stories by taking off. But it was clearly the time to go and we soon parted ways. One thing I'll say for t that night is that it wasn't a waste of time.
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