We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofIvan Lin

I was always okay with being independent or alone. My early encounter with independence was when I had arrived back to the United States after spending the first 3 years of my childhood in China with my grandparents. With no hesitation, I left my grandparents’ hands - I had no idea that would be the last time I would see them in years. No one had told me that I would be leaving China and going to the United States. I just boarded a plane with a stranger that my grandparents entrusted me to and left the country. I did not think much about it. I had no emotions at the moment. After passing customs in the United States, I got into a car and drove from New York to Massachusetts. Still, no one had explained to me what was going on. At that point, I erupted into a state of panic. Tears started pouring out and I was begging to go home. I eventually got in contact with my grandma. All I remember now from that call was me desperately pleading for her to have the front door open for when I got back. I firmly believed that I would be going back to my grandparents, reminding her every other chance I got about the door. I confirmed with her one last time, then hung up. I was clearly lied to. Hours passed and I finally arrived at my current apartment in Quincy. Being in this unfamiliar setting landed me in tears. Right as I got outside the car my parents also coincidentally just got back from work. We encountered them on our way back to the apartment. I had no recognition of them and was completely unaware that they were my parents. At the time I felt so alone that I cried for 20 minutes straight, begging to see my grandparents the whole time. To my surprise, there was an additional member of the family: my sister, who was fast asleep at the time of my arrival, greeted me with a suspicious look the next morning.

As I adapted to the environment, my mind settled. I spent most days at my neighbor’s house with my sister as my parents went to work. My parents were usually busy and never had time to spend with me or my sister. On the days that they had a day off, they would sometimes bring us to the park or somewhere fun. This was my entire childhood. These events changed me as a person as it made me more self-aware and independent. I do not blame my parents for not spending as much time with me and my sister, but it did impact me growing up. I don't see their actions as neglect, and can definitely see why they chose this path. Overall, their intention was to have stable jobs and provide for my sister and I, much like the initial goals of the American Dream. Growing to be more independent makes me more prepared and also gives me a different mindset.

© Ivan Lin. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.