Being Assyrian has always been a huge part of my identity. As a child I felt so embarrassed to be who I am. No one had ever taught me to feel that way, I just didn't like how different my life seemed to be, compared to the other kids from my school. I had a unibrow and I had to take ESL classes because I was raised learning a mix of Aramaic and English. I refused to speak Aramaic publically. I was so ashamed of all of these things for some reason. I just wanted to be like the other kids at my school, blonde hair and blue eyes with a “normal” name. I hated my brown hair, brown eyes, my unibrow, and my “odd” name (Amena).
As I grew older, I started to become more accepting towards my background. This started happening around middle school age. I realized that there was no reason for me to be ashamed. I still felt different though. No matter how much I adapted I was still being raised differently from everyone else. My parents were always more strict that the others. They wouldn't let me hangout with certain people, I was never allowed to go to sleepovers, I couldn't wear certain clothes because they were “too revealing” even if everyone else in my grade was allowed to. I think that these are just things that you have to deal with when you have Middle Eastern parents. Things that were so normal for every other kid seemed to be so unbelievably offensive to my parents. I used to think it was so frustrating to deal with this.
To this day I still struggle with their grip. I can sometimes understand and appreciate why they raised me this way. As immigrants in America they dealt with a lot of the same feelings as I felt when I was younger. They struggled with not fitting in as a child just like me. When my mother's family moved here she was only a year old. She was raised in Davisburg Pennsylvania, she didn't have anyone to relate to around her other than her siblings. She had it so much worse than I did but today she loves being who she is. My dad moved to America when he was nine. He was raised in Detroit Michigan and in attempt to fit in he had to sacrifice some of his identity. Today I see him as the one of the most confident, down to earth people on this planet. He always stresses to me that I couldn't make a bigger mistake that being fake with myself. I think that all this time my parents were trying to point me in that direction. They wanted me to love who I am. They didn't want me to try so hard to be something i'm not just because I wanted to blend in. Instead they taught me how to stay true to myself and how to be comfortable in my own skin
Although it was frustrating at times I think overall it benefited me to be raised this way. I learned to do what's best for myself and have good judgment. They taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and put myself first. They taught me that no ones opinion matters except my own. Here in America you are able to do almost anything you'd want as long as you give it your all. Being true to myself is the only way for me identify my dreams. My parents wanted to make sure that I had my priorities straight so that I can focus on what's important.
It's ironic how I learned one of the most important American values from my immigrant parents. I thought this whole time that their “Middle Eastern morals” would separate me from everyone else but really they were what made me feel comfortable with myself now. They really have taught me so much about how to live a good, happy, healthy, American life! Today I live to please myself and the ones I love only. I know now that I don’t have to attempt to make everyone like me. I do what I please while still being reasonable and respectful. The only person really judging me is myself. I live by these morals and i couldn't be any more stress free.