First generation immigrants to the United States usually have it the hardest. Historically, they tend to take the most difficult, niche jobs, often requiring long hours and manual labor. Whether peddling a craft or working in a factory, their humble beginnings are all about the hustle and grind. My parents are first generation immigrants to the States and for the third decade in a row, are working consistent 80+ hour weeks, with maybe one week of vacation time a year. We are not debt-free but far from financially destitute, and there is no need for them to work such hours any longer. Yet they do. They plan to work until the day they die, and they do it with such vigor and pride. They have never told my brother or me to get a job, never used an iron fist to raise us, and have only ever shown warm smiles shining through weary, worked faces upon coming home from another long day. I am absolutely pained when I think of what they’ve endured all these years, a blessing, yet a heartache that I will carry all my life.
Still, there are some days I manage to take for granted my parents’ support. I stress and complain about the demands and prospects of law school and of trying to manage a startup. I feel my ego bruised at the thought of having to do anything resembling an entry level job. ‘I graduated with honors from a top tier school! I deserve better than that!’ It was a pompous attitude held by most of my honors-class peers. But as my friend once put it, we must not forget that there is no shame to be had in any line of work as long as it is honest and done with diligence. My friend’s advice reaches to all these second-generation young adults - our parents worked through blood, sweat, and tears, wearing collars stained with red so that ours could be more white and less blue. Take your roots with the utmost gratitude and set your egos aside when going through your professional lives.
With that said, I really wish I could work half as hard as my parents. I want to pass on the lessons of hard work to my children one day while at the same time showering them with affection and unconditional love. In Korea, my father taught college physics and wanted to be a doctor, but his family could not afford to send him to medical school. He is possibly one of the most scholarly minds to ever end up running a dry cleaners. My mother…well, she came from a wealthy family and married my father out of love. She had the option to never work a day of her life but left her family and friends and followed my dad to the States with the promise of a comfortable life, never suspecting the incredible burdens of work that lay ahead. These are the kinds of sacrifices our parents made. As a second-generation young adult, it is my belief that it is our duty to pay it forward. We take up studies in law and medicine so that our children may have the freedom to study art and music.
Mom, Dad, and my Future Kids - I will not let you down!