I’ve begun to develop views on rather touchy and controversial topics these days after reading the likes of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. A Humans of New York post also inspired this as well as a tumblr post my friend sent me.
“There’s a lot of pressure being the child of immigrants.”
“My mother is Thai, my father is from Chile. They met while working at a restaurant. There’s a knowledge among first generation immigrants– that they aren’t going to be the ones to achieve the American Dream. They have to work hard and struggle so that their children will have a shot at it. So they educate their children and pass the Dream along to them. And now I have an obligation to make more fucking money than them, to live the American Dream, to validate all the risks they took and everything they went through. And that’s a heavy burden.”
-Humans of New York
To begin, I would like to start by saying both of my parents came from generally poor families in Vietnam. My maternal grandfather had been an officer in southern Vietnam army, which we all know was the side that lost to the Communist north. He was captured, beaten and tortured by the north. He died a couple of years after the war in his sleep and that’s all I know about him. Later, my grandmother along with five of her children migrated to the U.S. to begin their new life of “opportunities”.
They struggled for years, sharing a small apartment with another family. My grandma was forced to go pick cans for some money. My mom and my aunt eventually went into cosmetology. They were deprived of a proper education because of finances and a war. It took them years to be stable enough to rent their own apartment.
My father is half Caucasian. He was the product of a marriage between a young Vietnamese woman and an American soldier. Born with full dirty blonde hair, large brown speckled eyes, and generally white features, he didn’t fare so well at school because of this. Bullied because of how he looked different, he resorted to skipping school and not getting past middle school. My grandmother was a smart woman; she managed to remarry to someone overseas and brought all her children with her to the states. It’s amazing how she had gotten married to a total of four different men. I don’t know if any of them were out of love, but sacrifices must be made in times of desperation.
There’s so much more I can say, like how both of my dad’s older brothers died due to war and disease and how my little aunt had suffered so much as a child due to a heart condition and still suffers from a blood clotting disorder that can cause hemorrhages. I don’t want to go into that much detail though.
In the case of my uncle, he managed to escape Vietnam during the war along with his older brothers although they were separated as each were sent to different refugee camps. He was sent to Malaysia and his brothers the Philippines. I’m sure some people look at the word refugee camp and say “Oh it can’t be so bad.” In a third world country where starvation and poverty is already common, how do you expect them to try and feed more people? The conditions were obviously devastating. There was malnutrition, starvation and on top of that, refugees were not always treated well and I doubt most were.
Getting to refugee camps was far from easy. If you trekked there with a group of people, you’ll probably be going through a route with wild greenery and animals. Also, there is quicksand on those routes, seemingly harmless at a glance. If you were to go by boat, you’ll probably starve for a couple days, maybe even weeks. Worst case scenario? Cannibalism. It happens.
[I'm sorry for my change in tone. I'm writing this in two different sittings and I just feel a bit blunt and terse right now.]
I am lucky to be born in a first world country rather than in a developing nation.
The difference in health care and education is not just a slight nuance.
I live in a metropolis that holds the world’s largest medical center. I go to one of the best public schools in my country. Yet, I still have the audacity to complain about the struggle in my “tough” life. I have struggles of a different sort, I guess.
My family wants me to do well, but most immigrant families want their children to do well. In a way, my mom is trying to put her lost opportunities through me, but not for her sake, but mine. I do feel pressured by this. I also feel pressured by my will to not disappoint. I stress out and I complain about my school work.
And sometimes I ask myself “Why do I live?”
I still don’t know the answer to that.
I yell out “I hate life!” on occasion.
But that’s really just out of the spur of my stress and frustration. I can’t possibly hate life when I haven’t seen what life even is and that would make me an extremely ungrateful brat.
I have to do well. I have to study well. I have to make enough money to take care of my mom when she’s elderly.
It wouldn’t say this is a burden though. It’s more of a responsibility that I need to fulfill for all the things that she went through to give me a better future.
That sounded so cheesy, but it must be said.
Pressure to do well is never a bad thing. It should be (eventually) appreciated.