Each person’s heritage is very important. Or perhaps not exactly their heritage, because that is a cry broad subject, but the individual roots of each person.
If you trace a person back to the places that they have been to, back to the experiences that they have experienced, you would understand so much more about them.
This is a small section of my story.
Honestly, my motivation for this was sparked by, not too surprisingly, an APUSH conversation about education. Specifically, we were investigating projects created to promote the integration of blacks and minorities, when we came to the topic about early education, as well as the cost of.
I flashbacked to my own childhood, which I remember in relative comfort, but then realized that some things seemed weird to me. How was I, or actually, my parents, able to send me off to preschool, to kindergarten, and to all of those other opportunities?
My parents are most definitely first-generation immigrants. My dad came to the US with the sole goal of gaining another college degree, with little plans for employment. My mom followed about half an year later, and started out just taking care of the house.
But during his time none of them were employed! It was just the two of them living on the meager stipend that my dad’s college gave him. Oh yeah, my dad is just that awesome. Get into university even when you barely know English? Check. Get a full-ride scholarship? check. Get payed about 2000 a month? Check. Graduate, which means getting all credits and also finish your thesis for a masters degree in about one and a half years? You bet we have a giant check in that category.
And after that time, my dad moved on… To get a pseudo-MBA, again making no income. The difference this time was that not only was he studying, so was my mom.
My mom was raised as a psychiatrist in China, as a result of a hilarious story that I don’t think she wants me to share. She ended up as the assistant to the supervisor of the Shanghai School Board, I think of one division. To put this in context, Shanghai is a city that today had 24 million people, three times as large as NYC, and about 40 times larger than Seattle. It is a city that by some benchmark came out to be the best educated county in the world. It is a city of high pressured parents with only one kid, all hoping to raise an amazing child.
And my mom was in the middle of all of that. And yet, she moves to a brave new world, lost in the middle of a sea of immigrants.
While dad is studying his MBA at Case Western, she starts studying for another major… In a completely different direction. We spend a large chunk of our savings from Shanghai on her record-fast Master’s degree in IT.
So in that period while she was studying, they basically had no job, had no income other than a measly stipend, and had very little savings.
We were essentially living in the lower class, albeit a ridiculously over-educated lower class state.
And hurt, that is still a huge improvement over my grandparents.
See, their youth was spent in a difficult time. One of my great grandfathers was labeled as a landlord during the cultural revolution, which if you know anything at all about modern China, you would know the implications. It meant everything was taken away. It means your siblings are sent off to the countryside to work. It means no longer able to knish college.
Another of my grandparents were stuck in the lower class. They had steady jobs, but because of issues with their background, they would not be able to progress through the party, and this live out their formidable years in hard work and sweat.
And yet, through all of this, the two pairs of then were each able to raise two brilliant young minds: one who would graduate from China’s best technical school with full honors as the other would become a powerful figure in education.
And then see the two of them go off to America.
There’s a part in the story above that I’ve left out. See, it may sound like my parents came to America, got educations, got settled, and then out came me. But the thing was, we didn’t immigrate until 2000. I came with them.
I am just as much a first generation immigrant, exploring a foreign world.
I am just as amazed by America as they are.
After all that my parents have achieved, with their limited resources but massive determination, we are now living very comfortably. In a small Levittown-like place, albeit with lots more rain than could have been pictured. In an area with low crime and high wages. In a place where education is actually valued(to some extent) and where prosperity is the norm, not the exception.
Living in such a place can easily cause you to forget your roots. To perhaps too easily forget that under slightly different circumstances, I wouldn’t have anything. I wouldn’t be in this place where learning is a good thing, not just for nerds, where parents typically stay together or where violence is a non-issue.
My roots stem not from my social background, but from the background of influences by my family. To never give up in the face of an unsavory world. To take the first opportunity that comes knocking, and stick with it. To always do your best, regardless of the circumstances.
These factors shape me into who I am.
Soon, on Saturday, my grandparents will be arriving in America for the first time in, oh gosh, is it like a full decade now? Last time they were able to get a successful visitor’s visa was back even before I was in grade school. Visiting them in China is great, but getting to show them the unadulterated US… This is going to be awesome!