A Journey, A Gift
Lee Lam, Best in Class
In my family, Americanization is a disease, a degeneration of principles set on from moving into the Free World. Now, they aren’t ungrateful or unpatriotic, mind you. They simply mourn the loss of traditional beliefs, the belief every man and woman hold dear as they pass Lady Liberty or her angelic island on the other coast. It’s a belief of hard work, a memory of sweat and tears, a belief that the old generation sees is washing away from their shores.
On one hand, for me, I am a child of the Digital Age, an era outlined with a thirst for practical knowledge. I’m a first generation Asian American, whose path has been created by my parents, and who sees the future as one intertwined with technology. On the other hand, I’m a son and grandson of Chinese immigrants, who have seen the hardships of the real world and who had to sacrifice hand and foot for their place in society. I’ve never understood that. As I’m watching a show or using the computer, educationally or otherwise, my grandfather would sneak up on me in his Zen-like calm and suddenly shout, “Get off your computer and do something worthwhile, or you’ll end up sleeping on the streets.”
All the while, I’m thinking, “So? I work just as hard. My life is just as hard.” Only recently, while writing this paper in fact did I realized how my level of work was a shriveled comparison of my predecessors’ experiences in America.
This story is one my mother has told me many times, sometimes as a reminiscent nostalgia for times past, other times as inspiration for me to rise to their standards of success. It begins the same way every time. My parents and grandparents emigrated here from China in 1981. Like most immigrants they spoke little to no English. Their trip wasn’t special, unless you consider Asiana plane flights to be an adventure, as they relocated from Guangzhou to Hong Kong to SF. They both settled in Oakland where, in order to help their parents financially, worked tirelessly alongside my grandmothers as they sewed into the night. As they grew older, they saw the path of success through education and learning. They would bury themselves in books into the night, trying to absorb the bounties of the written word. From this dedication, my parents eventually graduated high school with honors. My father later attended Sonoma State and my mom, UC Berkeley. They continued their studious habits and later both entered the medical field, one becoming a medical coder and the other a pharmacist.
Their story, no matter how many times they retell it, always carries an aura of deep inspiration that still rocks me to the core.
Today, living in the Age of Information, I am aware of the importance of technology and its role in my success. Computer can offer me such a vast wealth of information that my grandparents never could conceive. Even television has brought upon a source of learning through improving my vocabularies and scientific knowledge. Burying one’s head in books is no longer the key to success. However, I do see the value of hard work while at the same time, I will embrace today’s spotlight on technology. My parents and grandparents may deem it unorthodox, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from their journey, it’s that you must adapt to meet your needs.
Before, I didn’t see the values my predecessors left in me. When I compared myself to my parents, I didn’t see their dedication etched in me. I didn’t see the fire of accomplishment when I gazed into my refection, only a cloud of doubt. Well, I’ve come to see that my parents truly did pass something beautiful to me. They passed on their spirit, their grim determination, and their lessons of morality and virtue. They passed on their ability to endure and their legacy, one detailing the leaving of home to start one anew. Most of all, they gave me a piece of what they left behind, a piece of philosophy, education, and tradition spanning centuries. They gave me the raw material that molded me into who I am, whether a child of America or China, of technology or flesh and blood. Their trip, their struggle, and their victory are what immigration and subsequent Americanization is all about and what, in the end, makes all the difference.