[This is part two of a three part series of stories from "Faces of Nashville," a joint venture of Siloam Health and Jeremy Cowart. We are pleased to boast of Siloam Health as one of our Most Outstanding Tokens Show sponsors, and a most outstanding provider of "health care transformed by love" here in Nashville. Jeremy Cowart is an award-winning photographer, artist, and entrepreneur whose mission in life is to "explore the intersection of creativity and empathy," and is the founder of The Purpose Hotel, a planned global for-profit hotel chain designed to fuel the work of not-for-profit organizations. For more information, visit www.siloamhealth.org or www.jeremycowart.com.]
When I arrived in the U.S. for college in 1998, I went to a rather small town in Indiana and it was a major culture shock. In some ways it was the first time I realized I was "black" in the way Americans think of race. There was almost no such distinction, that I remember, in Nigeria--certainly not in the high school I attended, which was an international school. In my small graduating class of 40 students, there were 19 countries represented. So, it never really occurred to anyone to separate ourselves based on country of origin or what language we spoke at home. Coming here, it was my first introduction to the American concept of racism and race relations--which, I admit, I may have thought was fictitious before that. I was incredibly naive to think racism had been largely resolved in the U.S. It was a whole new reality to come to terms with.
To me, as an entrepreneur, the notion that immigrants come to the United States and take jobs without giving anything back is just baffling. When you look at it, I think the statistics say 52% of U.S. companies started since 1985 were founded by immigrants. I don't know any immigrants who've come to this country without working hard to contribute and remain here.
I've also learned that if you stay honest in your pursuits and maintain your determination and perseverance, things tend to work out. Perhaps not in the way you had imagined, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Today, I'm not where I imagined I'd be 20 years ago, but that's good. It's different, but good. Its where I think I'm supposed to be. And that's just life. There's no way to enjoy the rewards of life without enduring some degree of friction. You need that friction to make meaningful progress. I think God deposits certain qualities in us uniquely for a purpose. And if we're not honest about that purpose, then we try to live some other version of life that's not ours to live. If you're honest about what you want and remain true to it regardless of what other people say, you'll end up right where you're supposed to be. And that's a good thing.
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