Jeffrey Merle

Jeffrey Merle

The Best 10 Years of My Life

Usually, people remember with great nostalgia their childhood or youth years. Sometimes people think about their high school years and the love illusions we all had at some point. It has become widespread to say “everything before was better.” However, my experience is the opposite; I think the last 10 years have been the best of my life.

Today, I have a bachelor’s degree in History, a master’s degree in Library Sciences and Information, and two postgraduate degrees in Library Administration and Document and Archives Administration. I am a librarian at the Naval War College in Middletown. While challenging at times, my journey to this point has been filled with many learning opportunities.

My story begins in 2008 when my plan to finish college and return to active military duty got derailed by a motorcycle accident due to drunk driver. I broke both my legs and the emergency doctors at Puerto Rico’s largest and busiest medical center were not able to attend to me for eight days.

After the operation I was sent home. Not able to move my legs, I stayed in the smallest room of the house. After two weeks, I woke up one morning with sharp chest pains. I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism and returned once again to Rio Piedras Medical Center — where I stayed for almost a month. All my physical, mental, and emotional health deteriorated dramatically. It took me almost a year to leave the wheelchair. The doctors said I had permanent damage and would use a cane for the rest of my life.

However, during my months in bed, I was determined to learn about my physical condition. Upon reading several clinical cases, it was clear that the delay in my initial care as well as lack of physical therapy right away were to blame. I decided not to go back to the doctors and made my own physical therapy and training plan. I started going to the gym, sometimes three times a day. I added Krav Maga, kickboxing, and Muay Thai classes. Finally, at long last, I saw some improvement and became more motivated. I ultimately regained much of the strength and balance in my legs and became very encouraged.

Months later, I ran the famous 10k of Teodoro Moscoso. After my recovery, I decided to finish college and then work on my master’s degree. I quit collecting Social Security and started two jobs again. The University hired me and I helped my brother open a food business. I dedicated myself to caring for my son 24/7 since my wife had decided to join the Army. I also dedicated myself to learning about masonry, plumbing, and electricity and repairing computers and electrical appliances. I improved my skills as a mechanic as well as in agriculture.

Because my wife was busy with her job as a teacher and the Army, I became a handy man who knew how to cook, wash, iron, fix things, and at the same time do research and write essays and monographs. My son became a swimmer, and I volunteered as a coach. In the last 10 years, I learned things I did not imagine ever doing. My son became one of the best swimmers in Puerto Rico, and my wife was able to achieve many accomplishments, including becoming the first female Chief Warrant Officer of engineering in Puerto Rico.

Now, living in Rhode Island, I have been attending the Library’s RIFLI Advanced English writing classes with Jon Lavieri. He is a great educator and person. He gives his students a great deal of confidence and I have personally come to understand the needs of people from different cultures. Every class has been a great learning opportunity. Next, I plan to attend classes at the Rhode Island Community College. I believe PPL’s classes are an excellent service to the community and new citizens who want to be productive in the country.

In my profession as a librarian, I have been fortunate to work in different types of libraries. I completed two additional post degrees and currently work at the U.S. Naval War College library. I view this work as my second chance to serve in the military.

Something I learned in these 10 years is that all changes are learning opportunities. I enjoy being wrong (which is not very popular, especially among Puerto Ricans who think they know everything), because it is a chance to start over and learn. I like to wake up as a student and go to bed as a teacher, and start over again the next day. I always dream of my retirement working every day. And the day I die I want to do it with my boots on.

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