One Step Closer

Posted by Gopi P Michigan

As a second generation Indian immigrant in America, the push and pull of cultures has both defined and created conflict in my identity. My American Creed is about accepting all parts of myself and expanding that idea of celebrating diversity to the larger society.

The Initial Breakthrough

The American Creed ideates from unity through diversity. Everyone living in America has the same goal in mind: to better their lives. Put on such a high pedestal, the so-called “land of opportunity” has always been a dream of those living in other nations. The opportunities that emerge from America’s freedom and openness to creativity attract those from all around the world. When it comes to my family, their journey started about thirty years ago. Competing against thousands, possibly even millions, of people to get his visa accepted, my grandfather arranged for all of the necessary documents, filled out an application form, followed through for interviews, and eventually got approved by the Indian government. Barely knowing any English and having brought very little money, he decided to join his brother in running a dingy motel, landing himself his first American job.

With two kids beginning middle school, my father, my uncle, and my grandfather toiled away doing laundry and cleaning motel rooms all day long. As my father and uncle grew up and received an “American education,” they soon began to create a life of their own. They both went to Wayne State University and graduated with a masters degree in engineering. My father met my mother, my uncle met my aunt, and I, closely followed by my little brothers and cousin, was soon brought into existence. My grandfather's goal was to create a better life for his kids, and he did. My mom, born and raised in India, only coming to America after marriage at the age of nineteen, agrees that her only goal is to create a better life for her kids. For her, to come to America seemed like an excellent step in the right direction.

Accepting that life will never be perfect, but still always striving to make it better is what the American Creed is. Acknowledging the opportunities that are given and seizing them is what makes America prosper. Being persistent and constantly moving forward in life is the key to success, and is what ultimately unites Americans in the end.

Sacrifices

Being an immigrant in America puts a strange cultural strain on the first generation in bounds of the nation as well as the next generations to come. The first few decades of my family living in America consisted of dressing up in traditional Indian clothes, visiting temples nearby, eating Indian meals everyday, and paying respect to elders. Attempting to preserve a culture that is practiced on the other side of the world is a lot different than when surrounded by people of the same culture.

From the few times that I’ve visited India, I’ve always loved the sense of understanding and community that is undeniably there. So to imagine going from that measure of cultural embracement to a nation that has hundreds of different cultures to accept, there’s no doubt that a sense of belonging was lost. There’s no doubt that they felt out of place.There’s no doubt that they got some second glances. There’s no doubt that on some nights, they wished that they had never come to America in the first place. These people came straight off of an airplane, fighting with thousands, possibly even millions, over a visa stamp that allows them to live in the ‘land of opportunities.’ Not wanting to take it for granted, these people kept pushing to create a better life for themselves and their children. Hearing only praise of this country, the people of India are always jumping up and down to make a trip and start a new life.

Now, when I catch my mom saying “I wish I never came to America,” I’ll always give her a questioning look to see if she actually believed the words that came out of her mouth. The answer is always no. While the culture in us may never truly adjust to living in America, there is no doubt that the opportunities granted to us here are much greater than those in India. And that’s a sacrifice that we have to be willing to make.

Adaptation

As a second-generation Indian woman growing up in America, I’m constantly searching for an opportunity to showcase my culture. Still not widely accepted in America, my culture is a topic that many people wish to neglect. I’m fortunate enough to be attending Avondale High School, an incredibly diverse school, that encourages the exhibition of all types of people. As a tradition of some sorts, every year, Avondale High School hosts a diversity assembly. This year, I pulled together a few of my Indian classmates and we choreographed a dance that was then taught to both Indian and non-Indian students. Another dozen culture groups did the same and together we showed the unity that we have in our school.

Gaining a newfound confidence in my culture, I have vowed to never let the Indian part of me get swept away. I’ve found that identity is not only given, but can also be earned. I aspire to fulfill my identity as an Indian woman that has not only been given to me, but that I also wish to earn. I will keep the traditions of my family going. I will continue visiting my homeland and stay in touch with my relatives. I will never let the Indian part of me get lost and I will never overlook my culture. Realizing just how much my family has gone through to preserve our culture, I’ve learned to appreciate them much more than I have previously.

The assembly aimed not only help me accept my culture, but to also help the rest of the school understand that no matter how different and out of place that they may think that they are, there are so many people who feel just the same. It shows to never be ashamed of who you are and to embrace the cultures that we tend to keep hidden. That it is the fight to be heard that connects us all in the end. That truly represents my American creed.

Published on Jun 5, 2018
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Writing Our Future: American Creed is part of the National Writing Project’s family of youth publishing projects, all gathered under the Writing Our Future initiative.

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