By Leslie Lopez
Like many children of immigrants, my mother came to the United States at the age of fifteen, with my grandmother, in search for a better life and the American dream. They both worked long hours as nannies, house-cleaners, and in hotels. Sometime five years later, I was born. Being born in America and having that 9 digit number that runs my life is such a privilege, but many expectations come with this.
From a young age I knew what was expected of me. I had to graduate high school, get into college, and choose a career that would generate me enough money so that I can live a comfortable life. They wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, at one point they even “settled” for nurse. When I told them I would not be pursuing any of those careers, I felt like a disappointment.
Now, almost two years later, I feel like this scenario is occurring once more. As a Psychology major, I think there are still expectations that I will be a doctor. Unfortunately, that is not the case. After interning at COLOR and seeing firsthand how nonprofits can help our community directly, I want to do organizing work. So how does one tell their family they want to dedicate their life to this and be an activist?
Upon thinking and discussing this with my coworkers, Kassandra Rendón-Morales and Angelita Trujillo, we came to a conclusion. Taking the time to explain to your family why you want to do whatever it is and being honest about it is a good start. As a first-generation American, it is common to feel that you have to live out your parent’s dreams. However, this idea is very contradicting because if our families came to the U.S. to allow us to have better opportunities, why shouldn’t we be living our own dreams? This idea of reaching the ultimate goal and having wealth, that our parents desperately want us to achieve, is called the American dream.
The American dream is a construct, an ideal that was fed to us in order to work nonstop for the rest of our lives. This idea that one day all our dreams will be fulfilled is not tangible to people who were not already born into a life full of resources and wealth. While it is important to not invalidate our parents’ struggles, we should stay true to ourselves and follow our own aspirations. Maybe we won’t achieve the American dream, but I would rather be happy doing something I love than miserable trying to prove my worth to others.