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What I Call "Longing Independence"

When I first came across Gossip Girl, I was mesmerized with the idea of New York — the fashion, the buildings, the subways, the coffee, the penthouses, and everything else you could possibly love about the city. What , nine-year-old me didn’t realize was that to live that lifestyle, one must be rich. Still, I wanted to live amongst the busy city life.

One day, I shared my dream of living in New York with my parents, living a pretty dream like Serena Van der Woodsen and Nate Archibald. My mom told me, “No. You have to live with us until you marry someone. Stay close by too, you need to make enough money to take care of us.” My idea of the Manhattan Dream officially went out the window.

While this was happening , my older sister was just moving out of the house for college. Prior to that, my mom burst into my sister’s friend’s house that she was at and yelled at her there for wanting to leave the house and move into the dorms, despite it being required freshman year.

Years later, she would repeat the same phrase, “You have to live with us until you marry someone. Stay close by too, you need to make enough money to take care of us.” Eleven-year-old me responded, “When I’m older, I have to get out of this place — it’s not like I can be with you for the rest of my life.” She snapped at me after that, and even after five long years, she still brings up what I said.

My mom, after being petitioned by my dad for ten years, finally immigrated to the US in 2002. Leaving her parents and seven siblings behind in Vietnam for the opportunity for her children to have a better future. Her dad died in 2006, nine months after I was born, and her mom, four years later. My mom has always been wary about the health of her loved ones, especially being thousands of miles apart. Essentially, my mom is often overly possessive of us and demands that we stay home to return the favors that they provide us.

It’s Vietnamese tradition that the children stay home until marriage, and then the couple would move to the husband’s father’s home until they are financially stable for a new house. This is mainly in Vietnam, but my parents are here now. Understanding American lifestyles has been a challenge for my parents every time it’s mentioned — that we grew up in America, watched American family shows, spent time in American households, experiencing the amount of culture shock when we hear the phrase “you’re on your own by 18, kid.” — it’s back to “but we’re Vietnamese, and we’re different.”

No matter what, I will always be grateful for what my parents have gone through to provide me the life I have right now, and I want to embrace my culture in America as much as possible — the food, the fashion, the language — but there came a point where this is the part of my culture that I didn’t want to embrace. The part where I had to be constantly sheltered away from the world. I want a chance to grow up and learn more about the world, independently, I want to understand the hassles of being an adult, and I want the epiphany of appreciating where I came from once I leave my hometown.

Gradually adapting to the anomaly of “senior year,” developing my college list, most of the schools on my list have been in the Bay Area or SoCal, two places where I would really like to spend a significant portion of my life — just away from suburban Sacramento.

Although I’ve given up on my Manhattan Dream, this is in consideration of my mother’s wishes. Avoiding the Ivy Leagues, avoiding MIT, all I have left is California.

One night, I was telling her about the schools I was applying to. I shared my interest in UC San Diego since I heard that they have one of the top Cognitive Science programs; yet it is a three hour flight from home. I was fascinated from just looking at their website alone, and I wanted the chance to one day indulge myself in all of their facilities. I wanted to tell her about all the things I could do or be one day. Rather than receiving her excitement, like the average child expects, I received nothing else but sadness from her.

“Con, one of my children already left me,” she told me, with tears in her eyes. “There’s nothing that would hurt me more than you leaving me. We’re getting old. Who’s going to take care of us when you’re gone? You can stay close by — go to Sac State.” I froze. What was I supposed to say? “Sorry mom, I’m leaving you for Southern California and living my dreams while I ditch you?” While this is a joke, at the same time, I was never going to leave her to pursue something that will never compare to the relationship I have with her.

My mom used a lot of the language that alluded to the fear of being abandoned, which I found a strong connection to her leaving her parents before they passed away. My mom didn’t have a chance to spend much time with her parents either, and I know that she just doesn’t want us to feel the same regret she did as she left her parents, nor be in the same position as her parents when they were sick. The honest truth is this: we’d spend sufficient time with them and make sure that they are healthy, rather than abandoning our parents.

And while I’m still in the process of mustering the strength to confront them with the problem of moving out and developing a job experience in a brand new city, I still am a child, both mentally and literally. I have about a year until I make up my mind, and have a clear palette of my options as well. Maybe in a year or two from now, I hope to grow out of my naivety and turn into a person that knows what she knows, and learns from her surroundings.

Editors: Leandra S., Chris F.


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