Dear First Gen,
(This is a chapter from the book, "The Rise of a First Gen".)
For many years, I could not forgive them. I was too upset with them for what they did.
It began in 3rd grade when I was introduced to the violin. I had violin classes during my math class and I loved it.
I learned how to play the strings and reveled at the music I was playing. I was given my own violin to take home and practice when I had free time.
My enjoyment turned to sadness when my math teacher told my parents that my grades were slipping. They told me we did not come to America for a low academic performance.
My parents did not have a conversation with me or give me a chance to improve. I was simply removed from violin class and my violin was returned to the music store.
No longer could I learn the melodies that brought a smile to my face. No longer could I develop the skills to play a musical instrument.
Dear First Gen,
When we were growing up, my brother and I were reminded consistently that we were expected to perform extremely well in class. One of my friends told me a story of her upbringing that may be familiar to you. When she came home from school and showed her parents her good grades, they would ask, "Did another student receive a better grade than you?" If she said yes, the next question would be, "Why are you not at the top of the class?" My friend is brilliant and skillful! But in her parents eyes, being second, third, or fourth in a huge graduating class was just not “good enough.”
Immigrant parents often have very high expectations for their children, and as First Gens, we work overtime to meet or exceed them. But there is more to it than having the desire...there are situations that sometimes derail us. It is commonly unacceptable among foreigners to acknowledge feelings of guilt, insecurity, and doubt; rather it is expected that you will overcome them and never discuss the difficulties you faced. I can attest that there is a positive side to being raised to always find solutions to each "surface" problem, but what about the inner problems?
Tell me: How have you coped with your emotions when feeling depressed or pressured?
Dear First Gen,
This past week, my family and I have been coping with the loss of my "great-uncle" (my mother's uncle) and planning his funeral. He planted the seeds for my family’s American Dream by legally bringing my mom's family to the U.S. His actions were the catalyst that gave me an opportunity for a good education and unlimited professional opportunities.
As a child, I often heard the stories of his dream of wanting a lawyer in the family before he left this earth. I never imagined it would be me since my sights were set on being a doctor—Dr. Irnande Altema had a nice ring to it! Although I went to law school in the state where he lived, he was unable to attend my graduation because of his illness but I knew he was proud of me that day.
I often wondered how my mother had so much optimism and faith in a world where I felt the odds were stacked against us. It was her uncle who instilled great values and resilience in my mother; but I did not appreciate (or tap into) that until I was faced with a very tough decision.