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Culture

Feeling Guilty: Confessions From a Child of Immigrant Parents

As I have come to mature and try to find my place in the world, I have attained a newfound appreciation for my parents and the way they raised me. However, as I think of my future and my past, I find myself feeling guilty at times, which was really confusing to me at first. Since then, I have learned that this is quite a common feeling amongst children of immigrant parents or families, which came as a relief to me.

Both of my parents were born and raised in the Caribbean. They immigrated to the United States during their adulthood and actually met here. My first words were in Spanish and I only began to learn English when I was enrolled in school. I grew up eating the delicious traditional dishes of their home country and was surrounded by its beautiful music blasting throughout our home. Weekends were spent in large family gatherings and our favorite place to vacation is still back in our lovely home country, the Dominican Republic. I look back on my memories of my happy childhood very fondly.

The value of education is one of the many things my parents emphasized to me. They said that if there is anything they could give to me and my siblings in order for us to have bright futures, it is the endless support for our education. I was encouraged to pick a major that would make me happy rather than choosing a career path simply for its monetary value. This is definitely not the case for every child of an immigrant family. A lot of us grow up pressured to pick between being a doctor or a lawyer. Though I am happy with what I am studying, I am still so unsure about my future and this has created inner turmoil for me.

I know the future is uncertain, and who knows what I will end up doing five or ten years from now, but I don’t want my parents’ sacrifices to go to waste either. I want to secure a future not only for myself, but also for my parents. Being able to take care of them later down the road is something I want to be able to do. How can I be sure that I am making the right choices? Honestly, I think the pressure I put on myself to do well academically stems partially from this.

I am so worried that I won’t be able to pass on the bond I have with my culture. It has played such an important role in forming my identity and I know that with each generation, this connection can fade. I already feel insecure about it at times, simply because I was born in the United States. I am coming across so many opportunities that they never had the chance to experience. I guess that was the whole point of them moving here, and yet, I can’t help but feel guilty for having these experiences. Even moving into my dorm and out of my home for school made me feel like I was partially abandoning them. I don’t want to abandon them or my culture.

I also find myself frustrated because I can’t properly communicate to them what growing up balancing two different cultures is like: feeling too foreign whenever we visit our family in the Caribbean, but not feeling American enough here. I know my parents also struggled with this when it came to parenting me and my siblings by not allowing us to do certain things that people our age might have been doing, simply because it was not traditional for them while growing up.

Talking about this is difficult because I don’t want to make it seem as though I am ungrateful for everything my parents have done for me. However, I think that acknowledging these feelings is important. Knowing that I am not the only one who has felt this way has made me feel better, too. My hope for the future is that I can feel proud of myself, for myself, and by doing so, I can make my parents proud as well.

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Genesis Medina

U Mass Amherst '23

Genesis Medina is a junior double majoring in Public Health Sciences and Psychology. She likes to read, watch movies, and spend time with her friends and family.
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