As the birds fly home for winter, so do I.
They cherish the moment in where they go and flee from the cold, for a brief moment, but remember why they flew out in the first place. The thing is, Puerto Rico- where I live, lies in the perfect spot in the Caribbean. It has perfect sunsets, copious amounts of beautiful beaches, colorful people, in short as many locals call it in social media #paradise. The problem does not lie in the beautiful, geographic aspect of the island, no; the problem lies in its economical stress and little job opportunities creating an unstable environment, where the happiest island on Earth is tormented by metal illness, poverty, and constant forced exile.
When I was in my undergrad, I went to the InterAmerican University Metro campus, where an alumni gave a conference about musical therapy. While I was toying with the idea of applying once more to graduate school to further my musical studies, one thing stuck to me about his keynote presentation. “Sadly, we (all of you who are sitting and are close to my age) are the generation of lost dreams and forced exile.” In this economy, which it worldwide, everybody in their “prime” (age group 21-35) are leaving Puerto Rico. Why? Because we cannot find a job. Cost of living is high, and if you find yourself lucky, the first job opportunity are offered is… a cashier in a fast food establishment. Not saying that this is not a stable income or unworthy employment, but I am talking individuals with Doctoral degrees, Masters degrees, doctors, lawyers, teachers are either at these types of jobs or homeless. I’ve read before that “the island of enchantment”, as we call our country, is one of the most educated places in the world, while simultaneously have these individuals flee from our island, myself included, to find better opportunities. Area of Choice? The United States.
It is in the United States where, compared to Puerto Rico, one can do the same job, but twice as much than in PR. While the grass is always greener on the other side, families are forced to find jobs in the US for they want to have a better life. The sad aspect of this is what we leave behind. A rich culture that we have to try to carry with us alongside our traditions. Friends and families, as in my case go somewhere alone where nobody knows you and start from scratch. Essentially, a life. And go to uncharted lands and start anew. Most people fail and have to go back and try to make amends, but most of us. We thrive. We make most of the situation and fight for what we want, but as nature intends we fly home for winter. Even if it’s for a small window of time, we fly home, visit where we come from and know that our sacrifices will not be in vain. That our sacrifices makes us stronger, and it’s there where we are unique. It is there where we are resilient. And in resilience, there is power.
Finals are done, and I’m back home in Puerto Rico for the Winter Break. Coming back home is good. I’m still not accustomed to the change in temperature. Living in twenty-something degree weather (that feels like ten-something because of the wind chill) to the drastic eighty degrees with seventy percent humidity is… taxing. Nevertheless is good to be back, at least for two weeks or so to say hello to the family (in person and not by FaceTime) and see some familiar faces. So far, I crashed a choral rehearsal from my undergraduate. Saw my highschool/undergrad voice teacher, and my choral conducting/literature/methods professor. It’s been good, but bittersweet. It has put a lot of things in perspective, such as family, friends and what I want to do in my life.
I’m still debating coming back to the island after I receive my Masters degrees. In one side it would be returning to my comfort zone. On the other, it would be returning to a place where I know I could find a collegiate work opportunity, because of my networking. I don’t know if the job opportunity would be a stable one, but with the way things are back here, it is… daunting. When I came here, teacher’s went on strike, and the overall teaching opportunities/lifestyle are light and day in comparison of what I’ve seen in Iowa and in Illinois. These past six months of actually living alone, in a place where no one knows me has made me seen life in a different ways, and I’ve remembered and learned new this. Some of these are…
- No matter where you come from, people judge you (or should judge you) for your actions and how you present yourself.
- Everybody should deserve a chance for every job opportunity.
- Don’t tell everybody that you don’t have something, do something and find something similar.
- Family is only a phone call/text/FaceTime session away.
- Family can also be your close friends.
- If you try hard and believe in yourself… (inside joke)
- Everybody can pass through a storm, they maybe unresponsive and not believe your words, but they can appreciate (or so you think) that you are a phone call/text away.
- No matter what happens, you have to work hard, because in the end it’s your future. Your life.
- Pick people’s advice like a grain of sand.
- Only the past is set in stone, the present is a gift, and the future as the sea’s wave. Even though the past is set is stone, do not throw it to the sea for the waves will carry it back to shore.
- Drink wine.
- Graduate School helps you use the most obscure and random scholarly words just to make your argument that more… scholar.
- It is in our scholarly duties to make up words so that other scholars can use them, and so the scholar circle begins.
- Personal style evolves. I still laugh when people say I have good fashion taste, if they could see me in my undergrad…
- Mozart is in fact from the 54th, later 45th century. He was possibly a woman, and he did in fact use non-human technology. He may have been indeed a reincarnation of The Doctor.
- The Doctor Donna is a professor of mine, also she is hardcore. Also, she loves French stuff so when you do a research project in French Chansons, you better werk if not she will shred you to pieces. Good for me, I rocked my paper AND presentation.
- Musicology might be a career move for me, or at least be a minor in my doctoral degree
- Always hope for the best, even when things seem dark.
- Just as in BBC’s Merlin. “The Darkest is just before dawn“. And, Just as Dumbledore said “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light”
- Yes. I am a huge nerd.
- Study hard, but nobody can part-ay like happy choral grads who laugh so hard that they fall from their chairs, and then laugh harder. (looking at you, yes you.)
- IF you put three choral grads in the same hotel room, they may or may not start laughing. This laughter would be loud (in harmony, with a certain counterpoint), and it WILL last for AT LEAST 30 minutes. The undergrad in the room would later tell you, “I though you guys were going to be all serious.”
In short… if I’ve learned or re-learned some of these things in a short amount of time, I know that I have so much more to learn. All you can be in life is a sponge, learn from everything.
Happy Holidays from Puerto Rico
And this week passed… It was a very intensive week for me. 4-5 hours of sleep, 30 pages of a paper that was due, a presentation for my choral literature class, 7 schools visited, 2 Church Concerts, 3 days of Recruitment Tour with the Western Illinois University… let’s just say you have 1 very tired graduate student. Nevertheless, I enjoyed each nervous breakdown, screaming because WHY WOULD I WANT TO INVESTIGATE 9 SCORES, each time we got to sing, in short I liked the experience.
In this week, the choral grads got a lot of time together, and we noticed that we can actually relate to many things, one of them being our love for choral music. Overall, this week as been intense, but good. Just another test so that I can show if I can handle the stressful life of Academia, specially the life of a Choral Conductor.
A good thing that happened in this week is… the culture shock (educational shock) that I had when we visited all seven schools. I was constantly reminded that I am not in Puerto Rico anymore. The sheer size of the auditoriums, theaters and students in each choral program was a minimum double of what I am accustomed. It is nice to know that somewhere people actually support the arts, even more than what they do back home. Here in the United States they say how much they are cutting money from the arts, but from coming from a Department of Education where everything has to come from the conductor (scores, renting a space for concerts, etc) this Educational System is, well paradise. I’m still on the fence if I want to go back to Puerto Rico to teach, but the fact that going back home means, leaving good choral programs that have at least twice as support as the programs they have in Puerto Rico is tempting…
“And may the odds be ever in your favor. ” Said Effie Trinket in Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games”. That’s how I basically feel. I’m starting my masters next week, and I have no idea how I should feel. Should I do a happy dance? Should I continue to run around (in my awesome apartment that I moved into) in circles? Should I continue to study for the GAE (Graduate Advisory Exams) I have on Saturday & Sunday? Should I start picking my outfit(s) for those first couple of days? I. don’t. know. All I know is this (in points to be all professional like)
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