The Duality of a First-Gen College Graduate

The excitement, accomplishment, and reward experienced by any immigrant parent to see their child achieve this feat is unparalleled. These parents chased after the “American Dream” so that their children could have a better life than what was given to them.

What is the “American Dream.”

The term was coined by writer and historian James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, “Epic of America.” The notion of the “American Dream’ was further pushed by the propaganda of Suburban areas and solidified within the founding document of the United States of America. There are handful of definitions, however I’d like to share what I believe. The American Dream is the belief that one can have everything in the U.S. or have the means and opportunities to have a “better” life. My parents are integral to that definition because I saw their dreams and I’m still seeing it unfold today.

I’m in awe of my parents and understand how fortunate I am, but it came with its burden too. Growing up, my parents relied on family to translate documents, do tasks, and kept everything internal. Not all, but most immigrant families emphasize familial values which became harder to grasp as I grew up in the individualistic ideals of America.

Family or Myself?

I’m constantly engrossed with the thoughts of my family while pursuing my goals and wants. I realized the burden of family when I broke down my sophomore year with a stranger who is now my bestfriend.

Men are highly valued in my culture, so my father being the only male in his line forced him to carry the full weight of our family. Likewise, I believed that I had to carry the family too. In situations, I am the calm in chaos and become the foundation. I convinced myself of this very early in my life for various reasons, known or unknown.

I recognize my upbringing surrounded by American ideals within an traditional Asian household formed this duality of contradicting ideals; The Individual vs The Collective

How do you manage trying to discover yourself while balancing an internal battle that dictate your thoughts and decisions? To be honest, I’m not sure at all. A part of me will never allow me to dissociate my family because I understand all the effort, decisions, and blessings to be here. On the other hand, I know that there are times to be selfish and times not to be. There have been multiple conversations with people that admonish and admire my familial love.


It can be a lot to carry. Some may call it a curse, I call it my virtue. I want the strength to uphold both and pay no mind to those who don’t understand the depth of my effort. At times, I can get very exhausted and it may be more work for me, but I have the energy to expend now. There are times to be selfish and times to place the needs of others above oneself. I truly believe that both ideals will push me to my full potential. The road may take longer, but it will be sweet when I arrive to my destination.

The identity of oneself is constrained by the definitions of our surrounding. Which is why I am in a constant battle trying to be true and defending myself to those who want me to change. I am one who loves deeply for his family while thirsting for high aspirations and new discoveries.

The vision of the future starts by understanding who I am through my past…

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