What a delightful little man.
I learned he came to DC from his home in Nigeria. He speaks two languages: English and Yoruba, a dialect from his home state. We talked about Africa, a topic near and dear my heart with my daughter Steph living there. I learned that Nigeria is a former British Colony. Each of the states has a different dialect.
He completed his graduate studies in Electrical Engineering at Loyola University in Maryland. When he found out he couldn’t work here in the field without an American citizenship, he applied for citizenship. Now, he’s a proud U.S. citizen.
I asked why he was driving a cab. He has a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering, for heavens sake.
He quit applying for jobs. The process was so painful for him, it made him cry. He told me even NASA turned him down!
As he pulled up to the Jess3 address, I encouraged him to try again. He balked. No way. He said he was done. Finished. He didn’t want to cry anymore. I suggested he try USAjobs.gov, where he can sign up for job categories and agencies and receive email alerts when jobs open up. Nope. He wouldn’t hear of it. He never wants to cry again. The pain was too great. His wife has a good job in the government, so he can be happy for her. She’s a citizen now too.
I got out of the cab. My parting shot: “If you don’t keep trying, you let them steal your dream.” Unthinkable!
I let the taxi driver in on a secret: being at work sometimes makes me cry. The job hunting process is merely good preparation for when he gets hired. He laughed, and drove off.
You’re probably wondering point of this story. Here’s the deal: I’ve been feeling pretty discouraged about my life now that I’m back from South Africa. I’ve had trouble finding value pushing paper and fighting bureaucratic fires at work (not that I ever did, come to think of it). The 15-minute conversation today with a Nigerian-born-American-citizen-Masters-level-Electrical-Engineer taxi driver showed me that I can make a difference here, as well as in Africa. A simple conversation. A simple encouragement. A refusal to let dream snatchers succeed.
Life is about dreaming big dreams, having the guts to make them come true, and refusing to accept defeat. And that’s what we do at NASA. We make the impossible possible.
Thank you taxi driver from Nigeria. I hope to see you working at NASA someday soon. Or, maybe you’ll bypass NASA altogether and drive your taxi to space. Hey, it could happen.