Studying English at Queens College changed my perception of daily life and understanding of how to live a meaningful one. Reading and analyzing works of literature allowed me to stray outside of the bubble I had grown up in. In my town in Long Island, 20 minute drive from QC in average traffic, Success for a guy like me had a rather clear definition: $100,000+ a year with a 401K plan, a tanned wife with well-done highlights, your boyz ( the Z is mandatory and all, or at least the majority, of them should have 6-packs), a car that shines like a diamond in the desert, and don’t forget to make sure the priest at church knows your name to take care of that whole Soul situation. Freshman year at QC my ideals were all of the above.
I am writing this from Central African Republic where I work for Doctors Without Borders as a Logistician in an isolated village. We are operating a pediatric hospital, since vicious conflict in 2014-2015 left the country without basic public institutions such as schools, hospitals, and police. It is a mentally and physically taxing lifestyle, yet there is nothing I would rather be doing right now. Since graduating Queens College I have been in the humanitarian field either abroad or stateside. I attribute my drastic change in values to a message I gathered from reading, lectures, and discussions with fellow students that I believe was captured by the Irish poet by W.B. Yeats when he said, “In dreams begin responsibilities.” Literature opened my mind and allowed me to redefine my parameters of success. In the background right now a group of men and women are chanting in tones brought up from some pocket of their throats that I did not know existed before coming here. I am able to understand that as a type of currency due to a message gathered from books. The shiny car can wait.