The American Life So Far

Alternate title: confessions of a whiny teenage Chinese-American immigrant

Rush hour highway traffic, the abundance of cars, airplanes zooming in and out of airports, coffee shops on every street, computers and smartphones in every household and the hands of every individual, these are somethings that I have gotten use to this past eight years in this suburban city in the middle of California.

Being thrown into this world at a young age, it was easy for me to adapt and live in the “americanized” lifestyle. However, I can’t say the same for my parents. At an older age, driven by the American Dream, my parents brought their lives into this society from a place somewhere in China where progress was slow and industrialization is just occurring for the rural regions.

Back home, people would be amazed at the sight of an airplane or even a train, children still play in the streets, and teenagers would spend money to go to an internet cafe after school for something the western world can have at the push of a button. Old folks stroll around parks at daybreak to catch the morning air and exchange pleasantries with passersby. Conditions varied for the working class, my parents owned a small shop selling towels and linen, while others worked for others with a salary of around 2000 yuan (around $300) a month. America became a common goal for many because it was an escape from the poor working conditions, living conditions, health standards, and corrupt local government.

Living here, things were still quite difficult for my parents. Though they found stable jobs working a 7 to 6 and 10 to 9 as a pastry maker and waitress at  chinese-speaking restaurants, they were still constantly held back by the language barrier and the middle school level education they attained. Things were especially difficult for my mom who suffered from severe hearing loss after she fell down from a tree as a child. Though she kept a constant bright smile on her face and work extremely hard, she  often had this look in her eyes that seems as if the word is fading from her. From the pressure of improving living standards and surviving, my parents were often caught up in loud fights between each other. The dark storm clouds of an imminent divorce began to invade a sunny meadow as they desperately cling on until my brother and I are old enough to survive on our own.

With my parents worked in blue collar jobs, my brother and I are continuing to pursue a higher education. While he is about to get his degree, I found myself clinging on to the academic and social food chain of high school. Before entering my freshman year, I figured out that I need to do extremely well in order to get into a good college and provide for my parents. I soon realized that high scores are not enough to get me in, and before I knew it, I felt like I was at the bottom of this giant Asian academic food chain. Good colleges now seek for more diversity beyond the typical Caucasian and Asian race, being so plain with a common Asian GPA isn’t enough. Unlike the lions of this high school jungle, my parents didn’t have the free time to pick me up from extracurricular activities, my schedule have to be based around my transportation. didn’t have the strict parents to push me to do my best, I have to figure it out on my own.

Things outside of the academic line aren’t the same as everyone else either. Living in a neighborhood far away, I found little time to socialize with people outside of school. Being not an American-born Chinese but a pure Chinese, I was quick to be labeled as an outsider, and the never-fading accent didn’t help either. While my peers made Starbucks visits with their friends after schools and on weekend, I never really had that kind of money to spend. The identity crisis was also an issue. There is this constant state of confusion of whether I am an American or not. I speak mainly English, but there’s this Chinese side that I sometimes loses interest in like the the language, the food, the music, the people I talk to. I love my home culture, but with this giant tsunami of Western culture pouring in, I felt like I was losing my roots by the second.

Despite these struggles, I am still trying my best to hold on.

I recognize the work my parents do for my brother and I, to help us become more successful. So far, though this not-nearly-as-new life has it flaws and things here seem less familiar than the traditional lifestyle back home, it also have its good side. Here, with the right education and abilities, there are more opportunities for people to genuinely live the American dream, there is more freedom, and believe it or not, the government is more fair. I learned that in the end, even if you find yourself caught up in a new whirlwind, it is important to look back once a while and stay connected to your roots.

All the love.

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