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First gen American: Battle of the cultures

Originally published September 24, 2010

Have you ever been yelled at by your parents? Most people would say yes. Have you ever been yelled at for coming home too late?

Again, most people would say yes. Have you ever been yelled at for coming home at 9 p.m. in the summer?

Most people wouldn’t say yes. But I’m not most people. I’m a 19-year-old first generation Asian-American.

Many of us have been scolded by our parents for making stupid decisions or disobeying them. This isn’t anything that’s unheard of.

But for me, “stupid decisions” categorizes anything that my parents haven’t approved of, including coming home past 9 p.m. on any night, not being as frugal as possible, eating junk food, getting Bs instead of As and not fulfilling traditional household duties.

According to the Asian culture, I have failed.

I have failed as an Asian daughter. I have failed managing my money. I have failed my body. I have failed as a student. And I have failed as a woman.

But here lies the disconnect.

According to the American culture, I have succeeded.

I have succeeded as a teenager. I have succeeded by making mistakes with money. I have succeeded in maintaining my health, while still enjoying other types of food.

I have succeeded because I am in college obtaining a degree that will lead to a stable career. I have succeeded because I have broken out of the cult of domesticity.

Every first generation student struggles between cultures.

For me, it has constantly been a battle between the American and the Asian cultures, with the American culture often dominating.

Regardless of where people immigrate from, building a life in America will always result in the possible risk of losing a part of their original culture and being submerged into the American culture, hence the name “melting pot.”

Many parents of first generation students fail to realize this possibility and attempt to raise their children completely within the original culture.

They do not realize that by avoiding the American culture, they are doing their children a disservice by not allowing them to see the culture that they will be living in for the rest of their lives, the culture that they themselves once so eagerly wanted to build a life in, before they realized the “toxic” ways of the American culture.

I have done my best to disregard this failure.

I have also disregarded that I have failed according to the Asian culture.

I refuse to believe that my mistakes have added up to failure.

I choose to believe that my mistakes have led me to where I am to today. I choose to believe that I am successful.

I choose to believe that I am a successful American.

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