My American Dream

My dad and his sisters were boat people. Yup, the boat people you always hear people talk about when discussing the Vietnam War as if it were eons ago. When he finally got to America, he was a wide-eyed, scrawny, malnourished 27 year old with just the clothes on his back. I used to hear this story 500 times over growing up, and I would simply roll my eyes. Thank you, Dad, for being so repetitive. :)

My mom came to America on a plane at age 35, after her brothers went on boats to trailblaze the route to America for the whole family. In other Chinese-Vietnamese eyes, she got lucky and had it easy.

Because of the war, my dad worked 3 jobs while taking GED classes to help finance his younger sisters’ community college. Then he managed to find his way through NJIT for Mechanical Engineering and EE, and went onto get a good job in the secure defense industry. My mom didn’t come to America until she was 35, and she had just missed the opportunity to go to Taiwan University for math and architecture. In 1992, because my mom was about to have me, my dad didn’t finish his Master’s program and my mom never finished community college.

Skip forward to 2013, I’m almost 22 years old, still just a kid though. Yesterday, I was watching little kids learn how to put some of the basics of a video game controller together. Their parents didn’t speak English, but it didn’t matter because the kids were learning. The joy I saw in the parents’ eyes reminded me of my mom. When she struggled to find ways to send me to Pre-K in the pouring Houston rains without a car, she always said seeing me so happy to go to school made her happy. And it gave her the courage to do everything in her power to get me an education.

Needless to say, I loved school.

My dad is the risk-taker of the family, always pushing me to do what’s best for me. Do something different. Self-study, don’t just read what the school gives you. Set limits, and then set out to surpass them.

My mom is the home-maker of the family, always encouraging me to love the people around me, enforcing the Golden Rule in Chinese. Chase after the things that make your heart feel good. Don’t worry about the other people laughing at you. Just focus on you and the people you love.

What I love about my parents is that they have American Dreams of their own. And now that they are getting older, they amaze me in their strength and willpower to learn, to live, and be happy. My dad just got his first iPhone and forced my mom to get a smartphone too. Let me tell you, that’s been fun. Welcome to the digital age, Mom and Dad.

What I also love about my parents is that they have never pushed their own American Dreams on me. Sometimes I know they expect me to know what they value. Sometimes my dad tells me he thinks he has failed in life because he never got to do the things he wanted to do ever since he got laid off. That he’s stuck in a 8AM-10PM job 6 days a week with a terrible boss just to earn some measly money. Sometimes my mom tells me she thinks she has failed in life because she never got to go to her dream school, because she came to America late. But they tell me it’s all worth it, because they have me. Their only daughter.

Last year, I told them that my American Dream is to work in education and help those struggling to achieve their own American Dreams. My parents know that this won’t bring the fattest paycheck or the applause from our ambitious Asian American family friends. I think deep down, they’re afraid of what I might do. I’ve always been such a troublemaker in the family, doing things against their will or permission. But they now trust that they have instilled their own values in me and that I will do what is best for me, and for us as a family.

I am so thankful to have such wonderful and supportive parents. Watching them grow with me the last four years while I’ve been away in college has been nothing but a blessing. And I hope they’ll be proud to see me try to make my own American Dream come true.