I am the daughter of two architects who built this life for me in the midst of the rubble, poverty, and corruption of our native country. My parents fiercely believed in the American dream, but the American dream has dimmed for many Americans. Underrepresented communities are often divided on whether or not the American dream is still alive. The answer to that question has become increasingly harder to find with the rise of Anti-AAPI sentiments amidst a global pandemic, stagnant wages despite an increased cost of living, and socio-economic obstacles that deter many families from sending their children on to pursue higher education.
Despite the climate of the world we’re in, I'd say yes if you ask me if the American dream still exists. But there’s a complicated, nuanced answer for immigrants and their children that gets overlooked. The conversation about the American dream often excludes how children of immigrants struggle to navigate cross-cultural identities, fulfilling generational expectations, all while trying to make peace with the guilt that comes with climbing the ladder of success. For many children of immigrants like myself, seeing upward mobility in our families feels like the American dream is being fulfilled through us. Yet, there is still pain in knowing that in moving forward, you’re leaving people behind.
My parents left the Philippines in their early twenties, the age that I am now. Like me, they were just kids, trying to make sense of the world around them– except in a language and a place utterly foreign to them. For them, the American dream meant building a home, living comfortably, and creating a life that wasn’t given to them firsthand. When my mom left her home to make a life for herself with my dad, her mother would write letters to her weekly. My grandma had an infatuation with winning the lottery. In her letters, she’d write, “If I could win the lottery, we’d never be apart.”
Sometimes, I look at my life now and feel like I’ve won big. But still, in the moments of celebration, I think about the cost of getting here. While the storyline of the American dream is running through me, the narrative varies for every migrant. Different opportunities, circumstances, and challenges in factors such as varying educational backgrounds and differing familial and governmental assistance muddle the American dream's lines.
The discussion and reality about immigration and the American dream is a long and complex one that holds many layers. Truthfully, there’s not a “one-size fits all” approach. The American dream is different for everyone. For some it lives on, for others that dream died long ago. In all honesty, I think that sometimes the American dream isn’t simply about hard work, but a combination of persistence, luck, and opportunity. While there’s no clear answer for us now, we can find comfort in building suburbia– building our own idea of home.