1st Gen

Being a 1st generation immigrant has its ups and downs. I’ve learned how to become an adult, quickly. To adapt to another country’s system, different ways of life, a higher level of responsibility in looking after myself, making sure that in addition to survival I must be happy to keep the cycle going. What comes next after you’ve crossed off the list of becoming “American”? That was my family’s agenda for me since I was at a young age. Making sure I learned English, investing in a passport, giving opportunities to learn “Western” cultures and customs. I’m beginning to lose touch with my own. My own people, language, beliefs, customs, traditions. What’s next? Make money? Start a family? I’m not blaming capitalism or globalization; I have my own thoughts on these systems’ negative impacts from the global scale down to interpersonal relationships, but I cannot deny reality.

This is it; I’m living the “American Dream”. Except for the “get rich” part. I am not motivated to complete that Dream. Perhaps it’s my own subconscious rebellion against my family’s agenda. A passive-aggressive, indirect way of saying: I did not have a choice in choosing my path, and this is me utilizing whatever power I have to say “sorry to burst your bubble, but…”

In my family’s eyes I have failed. In my own eyes, I feel lost. I live pay check to pay check. I long to live in a house with people who I can call family. When I’m here I feel nostalgic. When I’m at home I feel isolated. I have my complaints about the US; I have complaints about Taiwan. There are things I like here; there are things I adore about home. My priority is to be happy, because being unhappy is unproductive. When unhappy, I also stop working to better other areas of my life.

Transnational. Sometimes living a transnational life is hard. My head splits, my heart sinks, my spirit crushed whenever I have to leave somewhere. I’ve long given up on the idea of home, the idea of settling down. I don’t buy into the idea of marriage, having kids, buying a house, getting pets, saving up for retirement, retire, have grandchildren, and having to look for good place to bury myself. Because where would I do that? My mother traveled far to make it to my graduation, but I had to lie to her. I did not actually graduate that year because I was depressed and trusted my academic adviser who counted up my credits wrong. I didn’t go to my real graduation. Because who would be there? I don’t have family here. My friends don’t understand the impact of “graduation” on me. It was a sign that I have achieved the “American Dream” that my family longed for since I was born. My uncle in California, my brother in California. We don’t even talk. So I didn’t invite them. Is this the cost of becoming American?

All this negativity. I try to always end my writing on a positive note so I can go on another day.

I’ve grown. My separation anxiety is getting a lot better. I don’t like goodbyes; when my mom drops me off at the airport I don’t say goodbye. I don’t look at her. I just walk straight in and turn the corner so I don’t have to see her. And then I cry. Then I try to look normal for the immigration officer. This pattern carries on for others who I know are going to leave my life. But nowadays I try to make an effort in having closure. I’m less sad when it’s time to leave. I’m better at being alone. Every separation is not the end of my world. Every departure is a little more hopeful than devastating. I’m able to form attachments, then let go when I need to. This is growth!

It’s a slow process, but I hope to reach equilibrium. The rest of my life will probably be split between the US and Taiwan. I’m foreseeing changes. I have to, because it keeps me going. Another day at work, another day to be with people I want to spend time with, another day to live not just to survive.


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