I'm the daughter of two Jamaican immigrants who started from scratch when they moved to the United States.
New careers. New homes. New customs and expectations.
And, when I talk to other first-gen millennials - especially from the Caribbean or Latin America - I notice that we have a lot in common. Even beyond our food or our music. It's the difference between our parents' mindsets and our own.
For some of us, our parents were born and raised in a survivor's atmosphere. Basic needs were the priority. Working hard, working overtime, at a job that paid the bills (not necessarily filling your soul's deepest purpose), was simply what needed to be done. And of course, our parents were having to navigate their parents' experience of survival, physical/emotional/sexual abuse.... the list goes on.
One thing I'll say about immigrants: they get the job done (Hamilton reference, of course). My parents have a work ethic, dedication and sense of purpose that absolutely blows me away. But one thing that us first gen folks may have noticed...our parents didn't get the luxury of diving deep into their emotions and self-care. And "luxury" is a word I use intentionally.
While it is 3,000% beneficial to learn how to manage your anger, sadness, fear, anxiety... it takes lots of intentionality to do so. Lots of coaching yourself to slow down and identify the root. That is pretty challenging to do for someone working overtime with kids to go home and feed, and only 6 hours leftover for rest. Even more challenging for immigrants who have to also bridge the language barrier once arriving in a country that does not cater to those who don't fluidly speak English.
So hopefully, we first-generation kids (not kids anymore) can learn patience and compassion for our parents. They didn't have access to all of the therapeutic tools that we do now; and we don't necessarily need to force them to dive into that, either. For many of us, we can be proud of our parents' sacrifice and investment. I know I am. And, as we mature, we see the places where their work left off, and ours began.
The patterns that were passed down, generation to generation, don't look the same for each of us. You may be healing from physical abuse from an angry parent, while someone else may be healing from neglect from a loving parent who was simply too overworked to be physically present. Or, perhaps you've wrestled with your parents on your non-traditional ideologies that they are unfamiliar with. Maybe words like "respect" mean something different in their culture, versus your Americanized one. Maybe you are out there intentionally choosing a romantic partner that can help you break a long line of absentee fathers.
And, I'd be remiss to not mention: some of us are intentionally trying to continue many of the traditions that we inherited from our parents' culture.
I hope that I can be as dedicated, innovative and perseverant as my parents were. They kept moving forward, no matter what. I hope that I can keep the liveliness and joy of Jamaican culture, music, and food alive with my own husband and children. I hope that I can keep the Jamaican spirit of stubbornness (in a good way ;) ) strong in me, but harness its power so that I am steadfast in my purpose, instead of stuck in my dysfunction.
There is much to heal. And much to keep.
So. What about you? What is your culture? What do you hope to keep and pass on to the future generations, to preserve the Spirit of your People? What do you hope to heal, picking up where your mother and father left off, so that you can pass a more whole torch on to your children?
And hey, I'd love to personally chat with you about this. Feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or direct message on Instagram to chat more about your first-gen or immigration story.
We're all in this together. Let's honor our ancestors and heal.
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