Being First-Generation American and Self-Expression

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Plasmando Ideas

By Amber

Study hard. Get good grades. Go to college.  Have a good career.  These are some of the pressures many teens carry on their shoulders.

As a first-generation American, I also share these burdens of living a “successful” life. I particularly feel the pressures because my parents went through so much to get to where my family and I are today. They are both victims of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was led by a man named Pol Pot and were the followers of the communist party of Kampuchea in Cambodia. They ruled during 1975 to 1979 and committed mass genocide that resulted in around 2 million deaths. After escaping and settling down in a safe environment in a Thai refugee camp years later, they received an opportunity to relocate to Canada to start a new and better life. Despite their efforts, they still struggled. Between living in a foreign land and starting from the bottom, they also coped with a communication barrier speaking very limited English and French.

Leaving behind old friends who immigrated with them to Canada, my parents started over their lives for the second time when they moved to California in chase of the “American Dream.” and they succeeded. My family currently owns a small donut shop, which allows us to live somewhat comfortably.

Knowing what they had to do to give my sister and me a better life than they did pushes me to try my hardest in all aspects of my life. Although they always support me and never try to create stress for me, I feel obligated to go above and beyond expectations to make their struggles worth it.

In order to keep myself sane, I look to writing as a way of self-expression. I like to write because I am a shy person, and writing makes it easier for me to communicate my thoughts, opinions and ideas. Through my writing, I can release my thoughts instead of bottling everything up inside. A personal goal of mine is to create content that inspires or has affect on others around the world. I want to have an impact on people, even if it’s just one individual.

Okay, I’m going to get even cheesier now. I think that every person needs an outlet to release stress and let their creativity flow. And modes of self-expression differ from person-to-person. Some people prefer to draw, paint, take pictures, sing, dance, make music, play sports, wear certain clothes, put on makeup or simply talk it out.

What I’m getting at is that it doesn’t matter how people express themselves. All that matters is that they do and do it for themselves.

While embracing the burdens I have, I will continue to strive to do my best to do my parents’ hard work justice and keep up with my writing as my form of self-expression.


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