Dear First Gen,
My whole life, I have not stopped to heal.
What does it mean to heal anyway?
Every choice or decision I have made in my schooling and my career was for a reason beyond my own self-interests. I excelled in school because it was necessary for my family. I put in long hours at work because I had a reputation to uphold. I sacrificed taking several days off work despite many days feeling under the weather or overly committed.
I have been going and going, like a nonstop flight, and I have not taken time to check in with myself. Maybe I need to be making time to heal.
You may be wondering what I need to #heal from.
Well, I never took time to heal from the instruments that I was prohibited from playing. Or the birthday celebrations I didn't have. The vacations I didn't take and the summer camps I didn't attend. The “normal” childhood I missed out on.
Or how about healing from being seen as someone accepted into school or offered a job under #affirmativeaction policies rather than for my own merit? Or the countless hours I spend rewriting emails in fear that I'll come off as “another incoherent person with immigrant parents”?
It can be exhausting having to defend myself if I use an accent when saying certain words, speak to my parents in their native language, or have my credentials questioned even after putting in the work to be seen as a qualified applicant.
Individually, these instances may not leave a lasting mark. But built up over decades, being continually questioned and having to prove myself, it's possible that I need some time to heal.
It is rare for me to share this publicly. I was raised to believe that there were certain things I would not be afforded, so I had to be strategic and intentional when pursuing each and every goal in my life. It was always reinforced that nothing was going to come easy for me. I was not born into any privilege, and I would always have to work for what I wanted.
When I wrote my first blog post, I started to heal from the various #unapologetically first-gen moments I have lived. How? Other people reached out to me to let me know they went through the same things, or would share their own story with me.
After I posted “Hard Knock Life of a First Gen,” my cousin who is in high school told me that his mom took him out of trumpet class to focus on science. We spoke to my aunt about how it made him feel and she said that he can take trumpet lessons when he is older.
It is possible that it's too late for this cycle to be broken, but my cousin did not harbor any ill feelings about his mother's decision. Just like me, he understood the bigger picture that all first gens learned at a very early age.
Our families came to the United States to achieve The American Dream. But often, this constant reminder can be hard to swallow and doesn't give us the time we may need to heal those wounds of what might have been in our childhoods.
As an adult, I have been reminded of the importance of healing. Now, I make it a priority to find space and time to heal because it has helped me to recognize why I may act a certain way when something is withheld from me or when I feel “robbed” of certain moments.
For me, healing was and is necessary. I just wish I'd learned that sooner in life.
Tell me: Have you made time to heal? If so, how do you heal?