Immigrant Heritage Month is a fairly new celebration. But immigration in and of itself – is certainly not. Not only is it the very building blocks of our nation, it is also the fuel that continues to keep it alive.
Being a child of immigrants comes with its own set of experiences; just as one who has directly immigrated here later in life carries a particular lens. As a first generation American, it can be a bittersweet balance of preserving values of the old country, while clinging to the characteristics of the new. Knowing what to keep and what to toss is a subconscious experience that unfolds frequently in the life of a first generation American.
But at what point does valuing your cultural heritage challenge your own sense of patriotism? Or better yet, does it? This can be a tough line to draw, because our patriotism as Americans, at least theoretically speaking, ought to be one of inclusivity and acceptance. However, it is easy to get caught up in the comfort of your own cultural enclave, that you forget you are living in a country that boasts the most diversity in the world! What an incredible rarity. That the most powerful country in the world, also happens to be the most diverse. Believe me, that is certainly no coincidence. Because distinction, actually amounts to strength.
Being first generation comes with its obstacles, absolutely. Having a cultural communication gap with your family is not easy. Attempting to identify with the Mayflower as a child in history class may have indeed been confusing. And sure, lunchtime may have sparked some bullying from the kids who were scared of the foreign lunch your mother packed.
But being first-gen also comes with ridiculously positive experiences as well. Many people are afraid of embracing their layered identity, in fear that they will stand out or look strange. But contrary to popular belief, your differences actually add value to your identity-not the alternative!
Being first-gen means you are capable of thinking outside of the box, because you have relatives who have had to do it their whole life.
Being first-gen means resourcefulness is a natural form of survival.
Being first-gen means you can proudly re-invent the wheel, because you or your family probably made it anyway!
Being first-gen means language has a profound level of depth for you, and your ability to associate meaning to concepts is actually far more sophisticated than you realize!
Being first-gen means you understand the implications of faith and tradition, and how that impacts one’s decision making. Tradition does not always have to mean that you are ancient and old-fashioned, no no no. It can also mean that you are rooted, connected, and conscious.
And in a world where disconnect continues to grow, roots build the foundation of a life well lived.
Happy Immigrant Heritage Month – Lets celebrate all year long =)