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  • Writer's pictureAmanda M. Pericles

When You've Failed Your Immigrant Parents

It never really hit me until recently that I was a daughter of immigrants. It never really hit me that they came to this country, leaving theirs, for what they thought would be a better life. I never truly took the time to reflect on the struggles they may have faced, and it kind of makes me sad to think about it. I feel horrible and guilty, because looking back, I haven't made them proud the way I was supposed to.

At least the way I think I was supposed to.

My mother and father were born in the Dominican Republic. My mother traveled back and forth between the US and DR, but finished up her schooling there with medical school, where she was top of her class. Here in the US, all her hard work was stripped from her. She did not go back to school here to continue on with her dreams of becoming a pediatrician, and she talks about it very often. My father came to the US later than my mother, and worked as many of our families worked: in maintenance, cleaning buildings. He owns a bodega with my uncle now, inherited from my grandfather, and he works harder than anyone I know.

Despite not being of high socioeconomic status, my family has made due. They've been able to provide me with everything I've needed, plus many things I've wanted. We've always had a roof over our heads and food on the table. I was able to attend private institutions for high school and college, and I can't help but feel like I just didn't do enough to repay them for all their hard work and sacrifice.

I didn't work hard enough. I haven't achieved enough. I wasn't grateful enough.

In 8th grade, I started my journey at a new, Quaker, independent school, full of rich white girls, where tuition was over $25,000 a year. My parents didn't have that kind of money to shell out every year, obviously, but with the help of financial aid, I was able to graduate with my high school diploma. When I first started at that school, though, it was completely overwhelming. I had just come from a public middle school full of minorities. Middle school (for me) was when everyone started worrying about being cool. I was worried about how I looked, what I was wearing, the music my peers were listening to - things I never really had to worry about before. My grades were pretty good, but I was by no means the best student in my class of advanced students. I was just cruising along.

The mediocrity only continued at my private school, where I was not in the mood to compete with the classmates I had just acquired. I was the new girl. I just wanted to be liked. As I went through high school I had As and Bs, with a couple of outliers, here and there (AP Calc sucked). I didn't really study for tests. I definitely didn't really do research when time to search colleges came around. I wasn't really any teacher's favorite student based on diligence and hard work (except for Vocal Ensemble). As the one Latina in my 31 member senior class, I didn't stand out in a positive way like I should've, academically, given my background and the huge blessing it was for me to even be there.

College? Even worse. I basically lost my financial aid and had to appeal after my first year because I had to drop a course and failed another, not meeting the credit requirements needed to receive my financial aid package. My mother basically gave me an ultimatum the following year because we just couldn't afford it, anymore. I was worried about socializing, still didn't know how to study, and completely screwed any chance to get into any type of graduate school in my field, which gets more competitive by the day. I think to myself, "If only I had worked harder in high school and gotten a full ride," or, "If only I'd learned to study in high school," or, "If only I didn't care about everyone else and what they thought."

Although I am happily married with a college degree and a full time job related to my field, I still feel like I've failed, sometimes. I reflect on all these things and still feel like I did so many things wrong. My whole life, my mother always told me to "go the extra mile", but I never really took heed to her advice. Now, I sometimes (irrationally) fear that it's too late. I'm in the process of applying to graduate schools and I still find myself doing the things that have made me fail in the past. But, I'm working on it - slowly, but surely. I obviously can't and won't give up, but I can't help but wonder when it'll be my time! So many of my peers have finished their Masters degrees. So many are in fields that make so much more money with a Bachelor's degree. So many of them are just living it up - or so it seems.

Self confidence is something I've been working on for a while. I may seem as though I'm confident and always happy, but that really isn't the case. I compare myself to others constantly. I compare my success, my appearance, my talents, my character, all of it (social media can be a killer). I know that there is only so much I can do, and I'm trying to learn to love myself just the way I am and accept the past. When it comes to life and my career, I know my parents are proud of me. They know I've made mistakes, but I absolutely know that they love me and support me, regardless.

For now, I'll keep hustling', and remember what Jeremiah 29:11 says - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Sounds good, right?

Keep your head up,


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