Many of us are children of immigrants. Take a look at me, for example. I am the child of two immigrants who have migrated from Bangladesh. A country located in Southeast Asia, nested close to India. When my parents lived in Bangladesh, they lived like Kings and Queens. They lived inside of spacious buildings, surrounded by drivers, cooks, and maids. And they never had to face any of life’s pitfalls alone. If any kind of financial or situational obstacles occurred, they had uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, grandfathers and grandmothers to fall back onto. Nobody had to suffer alone. Loneliness was nonexistent. You always had a loved one by your side.
However, despite the bliss they lived in, when the opportunity to fly over to the United States presented itself, they quickly took it. Through the media, commercials and movies, moving to the United States was sold to them as the ultimate dream. It was painted to be the land of opportunities. They were seduced by all the riches, fortune and wealth they could acquire. They were convinced that their children would have a better life, receive a better education and become so much more on foreign soil than they could ever be on native land. So they left. Packing up their luggage, leaving behind family, friends and parents. And they left everything behind except for memories and a heart full of hope that this decision would be one that changed their lives for the better.
But as many immigrant parents flew over and landed onto American grounds, a daunting reality struck them: The American Dream was a living nightmare. This was not what it seemed.
Many immigrants who held respectable positions of employment back home, such as being doctors, military officers, engineers and entrepreneurs were dismissed as uneducated and unqualified here in the United States. After having their education declared as null, and having their honor metaphorically spat on, they resorted to low-wage occupations.
But even then, they were deemed as illiterate because English wasn’t their first language.
They were viewed as peculiar because of their clothing of choice and culture.
They were worked to the core, with outrageous jobs that required ridiculous hours. But they took it because they knew they had a family to support.
They ate very little so their children could fill their stomachs to the brim.
They slept less, so their children never had to endure sleepless nights.
They reclined on dusty spring mattresses on the cold floor with no blankets, but selflessly allowed their children to snuggle in-between them. Even if that meant it would rob away their own warmth.
They marched through dangerous climates and weather conditions because they weren’t qualified to receive a driver’s license, or even afford to waste their money on bus fares.
With no kind of health or medical insurance available, some of our mothers gave birth to us at home. And that too, without any additional anesthetics to numb the pain as our fathers watched for their dear lives, praying and begging to God for their wives to live through giving birth.
Our fathers felt like failures because they couldn’t provide the luxurious lifestyles they had always envisioned. But even then, our mothers never thought about leaving their sides.
Our mothers never worked a day in their life. But after coming to the United States, took up one, two, even three jobs to support our family, all while simultaneously cooking, cleaning and raising us.
They lived in absolute isolation. No friends, no familiar faces, no colleagues to fall back onto. It was just their spouses and children.
So you want to know why I owe my success to my immigrant parents? Because my parents like many other immigrant parents, did not live. They survived. They survived by sacrificing blood, sweat and tears. They were the generation of parents that endured horrific beginnings, faced traumatic losses, were stripped of pride, honor, respect and family. They left behind everything they knew, and dove head-on into everything that was new. They were ridiculed for having an accent and speaking broken English. They were mocked for the scent of their cultural dishes that left an odor on their clothing. They were hated on for taking up the jobs that were available, but loved for doing the jobs that nobody else wanted to do.
And despite all the impediments that blocked their way, they jumped through one hoop after another. Never looking back. Never giving up. And never succumbing to defeat because failure wasn’t an option.
Every child of an immigrant has this unbreakable bond with their parents. Because we’ve seen it. The hard work and toil. We’ve witnessed it. The breaking down and crying in times of distress. We were it. Their counselors and cheerleaders in times of discouragement. And we experienced it all. The arguing, the screaming, the stress and the anxiety that came with our parent’s brutal, uphill battle to survive. So in order to understand why we are the way we are, you must understand what our parents had lived through.
Every child of an immigrant has heard and will recall the stories of the sacrifices made by their parents, and it has inevitably changed the way we view the world. These tales as well as experiences are so immersed into our conscience that we cannot help but love, appreciate, admire and place our parents on a pedestal for all that they’ve done for us.
So with every gain, every triumph, and every new height the children of immigrants reach in the United States. We use every bit of our success to give back to the individuals who risked it all, just so we could have it all : our parents.