I recently saw a tweet on my timeline that said, “As a first-gen you really are your family’s lawyer, accountant, therapist, translator. The POWER.” Being the first-born to immigrants, I can wholeheartedly agree. Being in this position often puts an unspoken responsibility to guide the way, not only for yourself, but your family and possibly even future generations. Although I feel pride in being a first-generation American-born, it can be difficult due to the expectations, family dependence, and the fear of failure. Here’s a few things I wish I knew earlier growing up as a first generation.
- You aren’t perfect and that’s okay.
Knowing everything that your family did in order to get the opportunities you have now oftentimes puts a pressure on to make everything worth it. For me, the thought of failure is scary because who doesn’t want to succeed? Because of it, I’ve caught myself trying to do things in sake of making my family proud and trying to live up to the American Dream. Trying to be perfect and expecting no failures in the course of my life is unrealistic. Instead, learning that things will be alright regardless has made me reduce that self-inflicted pressure I’ve felt throughout the years.
- You don’t have to know everything.
Every now and then my family needs help with different things, such as understanding governmental documents or knowing certain processes, and I don’t always know the answer. I think families can forget that although we may be more knowledgeable about some topics, we aren’t experts or professionals (yet). Reminding your family and yourself that a professional will be needed relieves those high expectations as well as the stress of thinking you must understand and know the answer to everything.
- It’s okay to feel frustrated.
I definitely didn’t sign up for this full-time gig, but it’s one that I’ve had to adapt and learn to manage. Sometimes it can be exhausting and stressful to have your family depend on you so much. As someone who is very family-oriented, these feelings sometimes made me feel guilty. The reality is that these feelings are valid and to have them doesn’t mean you love your family any less. Something that has helped me is teaching them what I know along the way. Not only will this take away fears of the unknown, but it also lets them gain confidence in trying new things.
Although being a first generation can be tough, remember that you are the first one EVER to go through this and therefore you are stepping onto unmarked territory. Nobody is or can be perfect, so why put pressure on yourself to be something that can’t be reached? Just remember, things will be alright. Your family will be proud of how far you’ll go and you should be too.