Immigration Guilt

My dad came to this country with seventy-dollars in his pocket. He stayed at a relative’s apartment in Fremont while he worked various jobs to buy a house, and to fund our move to be with him. My mom stayed in the Philippines to raise me and my siblings for a few years while we waited. She finished two years of college, but instead of getting a job with the degree she earned, she had me, and family became the most important thing for her. They both worked hard to be where they are now, and sacrificed family and a future job to seek a better life in a new country. Now it’s my turn to give them something in return, but what should that be? 

I am the first child from both of my parent’s sides to grow up in America, and the first De Guzman to graduate. My main goal in life is to help my family when I grow up, and with that expectation comes great pressure on me to do everything right. I want to prove to them that they can rely on me in the future for help. However, guilt is the feeling that keeps me up at night, and it makes me feel like I’m trapped with where I am in my life. I would start questioning myself, and all of my actions. Is what I’m doing good enough? Will I be able to give my family the support they need when I’m an adult? WIll I be the person they want me to be? Will my parents be proud of me?

I felt like I was worthless whenever I compared what I was doing with my life to the hardships my parents faced when they decided to commit their lives to give me and my siblings the opportunities they never had. I wanted to work as much as they did, and felt horrible whenever I felt like it wasn’t enough. My childhood was spent building a version of myself that my parents approved of. I would dream of the success I would hopefully gain one day to repay them back for everything they’ve done. 

Reflection was a big part of my summer, and I thought a lot about this topic. I spoke to my friends about this because they come from immigrant parents who decided to do the same thing. We could relate to our feelings of guilt, and the desire to support our parents. 

After thinking about it for a few months, I slowly came to the realization that I am living for myself: my life is mine to control. If I want to be successful, I have to persevere like my mom and dad. The guilt and shame I feel might always linger, but my parents came to this country so I could have the future I’ve always dreamed of. I recently had a conversation with my mom about what I planned to be when I grow up, and she told me that she hoped I would choose something that made me happy. 

We are the kids who are expected to give back to our parents after all that they have done for us. We have been given so much, and it makes sense that we get overwhelmed with this responsibility because we want to give them back that same amount of effort. At the end of the day, what we choose to do should make us happy. They came to this country to give us an opportunity for a brighter future, so let’s live the life we’ve always dreamed of. 

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