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First Generation Guilt and How I Cope

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Growing up, it was instilled in me to be great – I was cut no slack. Whether it was in sports, school, or work, I never had to question what my parents’ expectations were, and because of this, I’ve made it to where I am now. Which is why I wonder why I feel this immense amount of guilt. Guilt because I had the opportunity to play competitive sports. Guilt because I was given a choice of whether I wanted to work – I didn’t have to. Guilt because I was able to pursue my education. All these opportunities that my parents never got. Now that I’ve moved out of my parents’ house, I struggle with the feeling of leaving them all behind. I want to ensure that they know the sacrifices and struggles they went through were not in vain. I know I am not the only first-generation child that feels like this, and through time I’ve been able to find ways to cope with these feelings of guilt and anxiety. 

Talk with Others 

Talking with other first-generation children helps because you can express your feelings knowing that they’ll understand – you can relate to them! Sure, everyone gets the feelings of homesickness when leaving their families, but not everyone will understand the guilty feeling. It’s important to have a support system that will validate your feelings, and knowing that you’re not alone creates this community that you can go to when you’re having second thoughts about where you are and where you’re going. 

Call Home!

Part of the guilt with leaving home comes with the feelings of home sickness. You’re surrounded by new things and new experiences, wishing that your family was there to do it all with you. I would struggle calling home a lot because when my parents would ask what I had been up to, I would feel selfish. I was experiencing new and fascinating things every day – things they have yet to experience in their lifetime. Why me? Why didn’t my parents get a chance? You may feel like a selfish primadonna whenever you call home, but know that your parents are so proud of you. Watching you live out your dreams helps fulfill theirs and reminds them why they sacrificed so much. 

Journal

I am grateful that journaling has been getting all the attention it has, because it has truly helped me. There will always be certain thoughts and emotions that you’ll just never feel comfortable enough to share out loud – ever. A journal will become your best friend. Pour your heart out onto the paper and let your mind run free. When stuck in this constant loop of anxiety and guilt, it’s hard to feel like you’re doing better. Rereading journal entries allows you to track your progress and helps you feel like you’re moving forward when you feel like you’re not. You’re doing great. 

At the end of the day, understand that your parents are not mad at you and your family doesn’t feel like you abandoned them. You are creating the pathways for generations to come, and sometimes that can get lonely, but it’s important to remember that you’re never truly alone. 

Sitlali Cortes

Washington '23

Sitlali is a third year student at the University of Washington and intended communications major! She's from Yakima, Washington and when she's not busy with school or work you'll find her with friends and family! She also enjoys reading and writing poetry and making playlists.
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