10.29.2014

Dear Mom and Dad: You Succeeded

http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/enhanced/webdr02/2013/2/27/22/enhanced-buzz-25186-1362020717-1.jpgI had the good fortune of catching up with a grad school classmate of mine earlier this month.  Like me, he is a child of immigrants: Nigeria, in his case.  And, like me, he is a man of many pursuits: in his case, Ph.D., not-for-profit executive, and health care entrepreneur.

Invariably, the conversation led to our shared experience as children of immigrants, and how that shaped our sense of self and purpose.  Our families' life circumstances and reasons for coming to the US had many differences, but in both cases what they forged in our parents was a tireless commitment to doing whatever it took to provide for their children and make sure they had a chance to thrive in this country.

My friend and I both noted that our life pursuits, broader and riskier than that of our parents, sometimes engendered caution and disapproval from them.  When you are in a new country, don't speak the language, and have a family to provide for, there isn't much space for taking chances.  No, your best bet is to find a well-paying technical job, work your tail off at it, keep your head down, and live well below your means to make sure your family is set up.

Indeed, for both my friend and I, our parents followed this game plan to a T, sometimes to extreme and comical effect.  Oh, the stories we shared!

It occurred to my friend and I, though, that though that we were stepping out from the kind of career types our parents knew and encouraged, our parents ought to satisfied rather than upset.  Their whole lives were about scraping and clawing so we could have the opportunity to be exactly who we have turned into: hard-working, motivated, and free to choose the career that allowed us to thrive.  In other words, just like them in attitude and ethic, but with a whole horizon of opportunity before us, rather than the more limited paths available to them.

As a parent, I worry and fret and pray and work and fight and stress every day, that my children will turn out OK.  Everything I do, I do so that they will carry on what I believe in but have greater and greater freedom to express that in ways that are true to who God made them to be.  I long to hear from my kids someday that I have succeeded in accomplishing this.

I have told my own parents this before, but it bears repeating and I am making note to do so next I talk to them, which is that after all they have sacrificed and stressed and hustled and harangued, they too have succeeded in accomplishing everything that mattered to them.  I am carrying on the same ethic because it is deeply engrained in me by them.  I stand before a vast playing field of opportunity, and it is vast because of them.  And, I am going for it, thankful for my parents who made it possible and thinking of my children for whom I do all I do.
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