Owing A Return

Since I’ve moved to a new place and a new social circle, I’ve been explaining all over again why I left the US after funding for my PhD collapsed post 2008, and didn’t stay back like so many of my fellow meltdown-victims from the third world did.

Could I have made it through in the US? Yes, I could. I had a partner who, despite his own strained means, would have supported me, and I could have picked up the sort of work acquaintances in the same boat did. And like them, I’d have carved a small niche for myself in the next couple of years, even in those dreaded money-glomping monster-towns of Boston and New York. Eventually, I might even have been successful, and success in dollars is much more successful than success in third world currency.

So then why did I come back?
One, I needed it for my peace of mind. Despite many break-up tears, my partner and I are happier now than we were in those last months together.

Second, I felt – and feel – that I owe my country something. True, it’s a rotten hell-hole in many respects, but it was because of a subsidised higher education system that I received an excellent – excellent – undergrad and postgrad education for as little as $25, all accounted.

The public transportation system helped me have a social life and hold down a job without paying for a car and insurance and for ever-soaring petrol. Cheap local markets of local produce enabled me to keep eating well, or well enough, on a laughably tiny income. And while this isn’t a practice that I feel needs to be preserved militantly, the fact that I could live at home without social stigma meant my entire family did better financially and nutritionally than either my parents or I would have done on our own, with our Everyman and Everywoman jobs.

All of this why I came back. This place’s public structures – shoddy, basic and broken as they are – helped me live a middle-class life instead of languishing at the bottom with no escape. Which is why I want to work here, and pay my taxes here, and vote here and debate here and work for people here.

And who knows, in twenty years, it just might bear a tiny fruit.

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