Insecurities Faced as a First-Generation Kid
In kindergarten, I thought every kid brought a circle of Chả lụa, aka Vietnamese ham, for lunch. This assumption came to a grinding halt when my classmates started teasing me for having such a strange snack. It was my first introduction to how my upbringing was different than my peers.
My parents weren’t around much when I was young. If I was at a friend’s house, one or both of their parents were always home. My parents worked long hours, making that impossible. They worked hard for their income, but the price they had to pay was losing the opportunity to watch me grow up. The most I saw of them was before going to school and before I went to sleep. Rarely spending time with them growing up might’ve made me resentful, but it also made me appreciate the time I did have with my mom and dad.
Having immigrant parents can mean extra tension. My house felt as if it was torn into two halves, American and Vietnamese. Two cultures at odds. I was born on American soil, yet I was fluent in Vietnamese. I lost the ability to speak the language fluently after years in public school. I sometimes felt guilty about this, especially when my dad would act like it was my fault for forgetting. Despite these challenges, my parents taught me life lessons that will stay with me forever.
My parents came to North America during the ‘90s. They made massive sacrifices to restart their lives in a strange country where they didn’t know the language or anyone else. Within 12 years, they’ve been able to create a successful business in my city, despite my mom’s original plan to become a teacher and my dad studying engineering back in Vietnam. From them, I learned the importance of making sacrifices for those you love—like their decision to move to America to make a better life for themselves and their future family.
I don’t always see eye to eye with my parents, but they’re still easily two of the most badass people I know. They’ve inspired me to chase after my dream of being a writer. They’ve inspired me to be the best version of myself that I can be. They’ve inspired me to take the opportunities they’ve provided. They taught me that you get the things you want out of life by working for them. Seeing my mother and father go through the ups and downs of owning a business really made me value persistence and patience. They’ve inspired me to take more risks, even if none of them can compare to moving all the way across the world to make a new life.
Being the child of immigrants has also impacted my political views. The current state of politics upsets me, because we’re turning away people whose homes are no longer safe. I refuse to support a president who holds a racial bias against those who want to come to this country. No matter how you look at it, immigrants are human beings.
In some ways, being a first-generation kid can be lonely. Sometimes it seems like the world wants me to feel that way. But no matter how many times I think it over, I wouldn’t want to erase the influence my parents (and my cultural background) have on me.
By Molly Bui, 15