Reinventing myself

What do you want to be when you grow up? I used to say a doctor or a soccer player when I was 5 or 8 years old, but when I was about to graduate from high school, I didn’t know.

How well can we answer that question?

We need more information and experiences in life because our path to success is built day in and day out. I would pose different questions. What would make you happy in life? What would make you comfortable during your professional career? Have we gained enough experience to see what we really want in life? In order to increase our perception of life, we have to travel the journey of personal transformation.

I graduated from high school and I was not sure what I wanted to do because I was not prepared to grow up. I secured a job at a supermarket and it gave me a sense of responsibility; it made me feel useful. Year one, and I was feeling very content with my life. Year two, and I had many things in my mind because I knew that it was time for me to grow up.

Time does not wait for anyone to make decisions, it was time for me to evaluate my options and decide. Based on my national test score and a few words with my chemistry teacher, I decided to pursue my studies in chemical engineering as my dad gave me the green light as he would be supporting me during this period through college.

The path after graduating from college is very clear: get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and get a furry pet. Under ideal conditions, this equation works perfectly. However, college is not an option for everyone and it does not guarantee or immediately translate into the accomplishment of our chosen career.

Even though I struggled with classes during my first two years of college, I successfully completed my program and I was ready for what life is all about. Life is about finding opportunities and taking our chances. Life is accepting the risks and resigning ourselves to uncertainty. Life is scary, but if we don’t try, we will have no idea whether this scheme will work or not. When an opportunity presents itself, you just have to take it.

I left my hometown in December 2002 to travel to the United States without knowing that my life was about to be redefined. This was an opportunity with many question marks. 17 hours later after navigating 2629 miles, 2 feet of snow waited for me in Vermont. I understood for the very first time that I would be alone, with a new language to learn, counting on my roommates to be allies. It was the beginning of a new transformation, one that would make me more independent.

Years passed and I forgot about chemical engineering. Life had given me a reason to enjoy traveling (Connecticut, Montreal, Chicago, Atlanta, and Akron) and see the world. Why would I settle when I knew I could just continue playing the game of uncertainty? My loved ones believed that graduate school was the best choice to get back in my field, and they were correct.

I had the best time of my life while attending school at The University of Akron. I found a new purpose. I was surrounded by many friends in Akron and I wrote this note for my graduation: “Our experiences in life shape who we are and prepare us for our next challenge. I’m very proud of what we have seen, done and what we are leaving for others to follow in our steps. We went through marathons, concerts, cities, celebrations, movies, museums, festivals, performances and many other activities that brought us together. This journey does not belong to me; it belongs to those traveling by my side”.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be the person that enjoys life by taking chances, by filling my life with experiences, by traveling the path of life, by learning from incredible individuals, by meeting beautiful human beings, by making mistakes because nobody is perfect, and by finding my passions because I tried.

Alvaro Rodriguez

I am from Colombia and I am very proud to be from that beautiful country. One of my great passions is life because I have walked this path by sharing it with amazing people. People that have taught me to see the world in a very different way. Extraordinary individuals have showed me what I have never could discover by myself. I am an eager reader of science, poetry, politics, and music (yes, the meaning and composition of song lyrics). I have a great appreciation for art, languages, and the expression of everyone's perspective seen from the lens of a camera. I love Astronomy and one day I will be in space. I am a Research Scientist in Corrosion Engineering and writing is a great way for me to tell the world how I feel.

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