Pressure of Success as a First-Generation

Success has always been one of the subjective terms in my book. In school we were taught the definition of it, but when I became into my own person, I learned to create that meaning myself.

I have to admit that being a First-Generation born in America has a huge part to what I perceive and define as success. Like many First-Generation born, most of our life goals go in tandem with what our parents envision for us.

It was instilled in us at a very young age you had to get good grades. There were no alternatives. The word "fail" or "failure" didn't exist in our vocabulary and no room for it. The pressure to be successful was something my siblings and I have been exposed to at a very young age. As the eldest, I had a different pressure - to be the example for the younger siblings and as a representation of my immediate family to relatives.


In our household and like many I know, education meant status and success. In addition to the solid grades and pursing higher education, my mother also included that success meant being a homeowner.

She probably wouldn't admit this, but how I see it is - this is her version of the American Dream. While I have my own dreams I hope to fulfill one day, my mom has projected her dreams and desires onto her children.


It breaks my heart because as I imagine my future, the whole white-picket fence home is not something I want for myself and honestly, don’t know if I can ever provide that for her. Truthfully, I haven’t put too much thought into being a homeowner because with where I am with life right now, it seems intangible. This becoming-a- homeowner conversation with my mother arises this guilt that wavers throughout my entire body.

Am I supposed to want this?


I think about her life as a former refugee and the sacrifices she made for our family - to have access to education and to live this liberating life is probably why I feel utterly guilty. I recognize the extent of my privileged as the First-Generation to be given the opportunity to make something out of ourselves in America. Essentially, we are our family investments, right? They left the Motherland for us so we can become better humans and live a better life than they did to return the favor, right?


I don’t know how to get rid of this guilt that I constantly feel. Why do I feel so bad? So, my friends, I am asking you: how do you deal? 

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Written by Chary