The month of November is about celebrating family traditions and being thankful for all the precious things in life. I strongly believe that our ancestry and family history plays a big part in who we are and defines our values. This article is about my family and how their journey from Vietnam to the United States has shaped my life.
It all begins with my grandfather. He was a soldier in the Vietnam War and was held prisoner for seven years. He missed a lot of his kids’ childhoods and development during this time. My grandmother also struggled greatly trying to support and feed seven kids on her own. After the war was over, the whole family, including my father, went overseas in order to escape the communist rule and find a better life. After saving enough money for my mother and elder sister, they too eventually moved to the United States. Less than a year afterwards, my parents found out they were pregnant with me. That is how I became the first US citizen in my immediate family.
Ever since I was young, I embraced my Asian-American identity fully. I was proud of my heritage, but that didn’t mean it was easy to live in both cultures. There have been so many times when I felt stuck in-between an Asian and an American. I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere. I would always stand out in class pictures with my long black hair and small eyes, while my cousins would point out my strange accent when speaking Vietnamese.
Though I am grateful for the opportunities I have been presented with by living in the United States, being a part of the first generation is a very lonely and stressful position. My parents can’t guide me through the confusing processes of applying to college or renting an apartment because they have never experienced it in America. On some occasions, it would be me guiding them through everything instead, despite me not even being in high school. There’s a lot of just figuring it out on my own and experiencing things for myself, which has allowed me to mature and become more self-reliant. However, the self-doubt and anxiety of feeling like I am on my own can be very overwhelming. I’m extremely fearful of not meeting the expectations I have for myself and not achieving the dreams my parents have envisioned for me.
Nonetheless, I can’t be more proud of being a First Generation Asian-American. It has allowed me to see the world from two different lenses, the chance to build a successful future for myself, completely change the lives of the future generations of my family, and experience everything my ancestors didn’t get to. To end off, I just want to remind everyone to love yourselves and to love everything that makes up you.