I am the first generation in my family that was born in America. Anybody else first-generation people? Yeah? Clap, yeah? Yeah! Pretty amazing thing our parents did, right? They came to this country. They maybe didn’t know anyone, maybe didn’t even speak the language and they figured it out. Very brave, courageous thing. I feel like we never sit down and thank them for it. And we should, ’cause that’s such an amazing thing, you know.
A couple weeks ago, I highlighted a Sylvia Plath quote that I encountered while watching Master of None on Netflix. Something about that show really drew me in and I think part of it had to do with the cultural struggle of a child born to first-generation immigrants. You feel like you’re torn between two worlds.
I was born in Canada and Aziz Ansari was born in the United States. We’re actually almost the same age, so while he grew up as the Indian kid in South Carolina and I grew up as a Chinese kid in Vancouver, our experiences would have been somewhat similar. We identified more with western culture. We speak primarily English and we generally prefer western entertainment.
And we forget just how hard our parents would have had it, how much they would have sacrificed to start anew in a foreign country where they may not have known anyone or spoken the language. The quote above is how Aziz Ansari decided to open his standup special, currently streaming on Netflix, and it really hit close to home for me.
Well before he met my mom, my dad had to work to support his parents (my grandparents) and his little sister (my aunt). There’s one story in particular that he liked to tell.
Walking to work each day, because he didn’t have a car and taking public transit was a difficult-to-justify expense, he’d pass by the same pawn shop. And every day, he’d pause for a moment to gaze longingly at the transistor radio in the store window. He wanted it. Badly. He obsessed over it. But he couldn’t afford it, so he’d just have to keep walking and keep working.
Somehow, through some miracle, he “figured it out.” So did my aunt. So did my mom. They made a home for themselves in Canada, raised their families, and set us up for the comparatively “easy” lives we lead today. They came here with almost nothing and they provided us with everything we could possibly need. They had faith that hard work would pay off in the end.
Parents are amazing people, even if they’ve got to enforce some weird superstitions every now and then. We should be more thankful.