The American Dream

Leafing through the countless assignments from eighth grade, I stumble upon one that I am very fond of. Written in pencil at the top of the page, the prompt, “What does the American dream mean to you?” A combination of pride, happiness and sadness fills my mind as I begin reading. While reading what is scribbled upon the wide ruled page, I can see many things that have changed. My penmanship, once barely decipherable, is now more legible, and my grammar has benefited from the writing classes I have taken. If I were to rewrite this paper, there would be numerous changes to sentence structure and word choice, but one aspect of the paper would remain unchanged: the meaning of the American dream.

I remember my classmates hesitating on their definition of the American dream, having a hard time deciding whether they wanted to be rich or famous. I, on the other hand, had no doubts of what my definition was. It had always been clear to me and it continues to be. My American dream is to show my parents that the biggest sacrifice they ever made for my brother and me was worth it.

The word sacrifice falls short for my description of their actions. What they left behind for us can never be restored. A well established life in Mexico, their country, parents, relatives, memories, a beautiful past. They left it all behind without hesitation. No doubts. With their mind set on making the lives of their children better than their own, they made a decision that drastically changed our lives. At the time, the mind of a ten year old greatly disliked the sudden change. It was hard to understand why we couldn’t take a plane to Chicago or why had to travel in a van with seventeen other people as we made our way from Arizona to Illinois.

Slowly, as I was faced with a new culture, a new language and snow, I began to understand the reasons behind the decision to leave Mexico and move “up north,” as the United States is known in Oaxaca. The words “better education and future” were uttered when, with tears in my eyes, I asked why the decision was made. When I asked why we had to hide on our way to Waukegan, a new word surfaced: illegal. The word did not have much meaning then, but with the passing of months and my new understanding of immigration laws, the word began to make sense. Years later, as I learned about the college and financial aid process, I began to dread the word.

The change that comes with moving to a new country was abrupt and frustrating, both academically and personally. Having to learn a new language and struggling in classes taught me lessons in humility while increasing my desire to succeed. However, my brother and I weren’t the only ones who suffered from being in a new country. My parents, used to owning their own business, now had to be employees. My father worked as a dishwasher, while my mother, a pre- K teacher in Mexico, had to swallow her pride and work at a retail store. They never complained, always sure of their reason as to why we came to this country. Eventually, they both moved to work in a warehouse and the look of pride in their eyes showed us that everything they did was for us. That look sparked a new desire in me. To see my parents work so hard, to see them struggle day after day, made me realize that one day I would let them know that their sacrifice was worth it.

In order to fulfill the purpose for their sacrifices, I applied myself to academics. Within two years, I managed to move from ESL to regular education classes. The teachers were always amazed at my ability to learn the language so fast and at my dedication. Middle school passed, high school came, yet my desire remained the same. New sights formed in the horizon. These came in the form of the words “college, university, first male Latino valedictorian.” The desire to achieve these goals continued to be drawn from the actions of my parents. Despite the fact that all of these goals will reflect my personal success, I do not see it as such. I am not the only one succeeding. We are. I am not doing this solely for own personal gain. I am doing it for my parents as a way of showing them that their sacrifice was worth it.

And now, here I am. On the verge of making my dreams come true, of fulfilling my parents’ sole reason for coming to this country. At the very turning point in my life where all my struggles, my perseverance, my dedication and my parents’ sacrifices will be combined and result in my acceptance into a selective college or university. The moment that I open that acceptance letter and see the happiness and pride in my parents’ eyes, I will be able to say that I have awoken from the American dream to be faced by a beautiful reality.

Hojeando las innumerables tareas del octavo grado, tropiezo con una que quiero mucho. Escrita con lápiz, en la parte superior de la página, el tema: “¿Qué significa para ti el sueño americano?”  Una combinación de orgullo, felicidad y tristeza llena mi mente en la medida en que leo. Mientras leo garabatos en la página de rayas anchas, puedo ver muchas cosas que han cambiado. Mi caligrafía, entonces apenas descifrable, es ahora más legible, y me gramática se ha beneficiado de las clases de escritura que he tomado. Si tuviera que volver a escribir este ensayo, habría numerosos cambios en su estructura y en la selección de palabras, pero un aspecto de él no cambiaría:  el significado del sueño americano.

Recuerdo a mis compañeros de clase dudando sobre la definición del sueño americano, su dificultad en decidir si ellos querían ser ricos o famosos. Yo, en cambio, no tenía dudas sobre mi definición. Me había sido siempre clara y continúa siéndolo. Mi sueño americano es mostrarles a mis padres que el más grande sacrificio que ellos han hecho en su vida por mi hermano y por mí valió la pena.

La palabra sacrificio se queda corta para mi descripción de sus acciones. Lo que ellos dejaron atrás por nosotros nunca podrá ser recuperado. Una familia bien establecida en México, su país, padres, parientes, recuerdos, un bello pasado. Renunciaron a todo esto sin vacilación. Sin ninguna duda. Con su mente puesta en hacer mejor la vida de sus hijos que la de ellos mismos, tomaron una decisión que cambió drásticamente su vida.  En aquel momento, el cambió repentino no fue para nada bienvenido en la mente de un niño de diez años. Fue muy difícil entender por qué no pudimos tomar un avión para chicago o por qué tuvimos que viajar en una camioneta con otras diecisiete personas de Arizona a Illinois.

En tanto me enfrentaba a una nueva cultura, a una nueva lengua y a la nieve, comencé a entender poco a poco las razones detrás de la decisión de salir de México y mudarnos al “norte”, como se conoce a Estados Unidos en Oaxaca.  Las palabras “un mejor futuro y una mejor educación” fueron pronunciadas cuando, con lágrimas en mis ojos, pregunté por qué se había tomado esa decisión. Cuando pregunté por qué teníamos que escondernos en nuestro camino a Waukegan, una nueva palabra surgió: ilegales. La palabra no tuvo mucho significado entonces, pero con el transcurso de los meses y mi nuevo entendimiento de las leyes de migración, la palabra comenzó a tener sentido. Años después, cuando supe sobre la universidad y el proceso de ayuda financiera, comencé a sentir pavor por la palabra.

El cambio provocado por nuestra mudanza a un nuevo país fue abrupto y frustrante, tanto académica como personalmente. El tener que aprender una nueva lengua y luchar en clases me enseñó a ser humilde y aumentó mi deseo de tener éxito. Sin embargo, mi hermano y yo no éramos los únicos en sufrir por estar en un nuevo país. Mis padres habían tenido su propio negocio, ahora tenían que ser empleados. Mi padre trabajó como lavador de platos, mientras mi madre, una maestra de párvulos en México, tuvo que tragarse su orgullo y trabajar en una tienda de al por menor. Ellos nunca se quejaban, siempre seguros de las razones por las que habíamos venido a este país.  Eventualmente, ambos pasaron a trabajar a un almacén y la mirada de orgullo en sus ojos nos demostraba que todos lo que ellos hicieron fue por nosotros. Esa mirada provocó un nuevo deseo en mí. Ver a mis padres trabajar tan duro, verlos luchar día tras día, me hizo darme cuenta de que un día yo les haría saber que su sacrificio valió la pena.

Con el fin de lograr el objetivo por el cual ellos se habían sacrificado, me concentré en lo académico. En dos años logré pasar del programa de inglés como segunda lengua (ESL) al programa de clases regulares. Mis profesores siempre se sorprendían de mi habilidad para aprender la lengua tan rápidamente y de mi dedicación. Los primeros tres años de la escuela secundaria (middle school) se fueron para darle paso a sus últimos cuatro años (high school), mi deseo, sin embargo, siguió siendo el mismo. Nuevas imágenes se formaron en el horizonte en la forma de “universidad, primer latino en dar el discurso de despedida en su graduación”. El deseo de alcanzar estas metas continúo forjándose de las acciones de mis padres. A pesar del hecho de que todas estas metas reflejarán mi éxito personal, yo no lo veo como tal. Yo no soy el único que tiene éxito. Somos nosotros. Yo no estoy haciendo esto solamente para mi beneficio personal. Lo estoy haciendo para mis padres, como una forma de mostrarles que su sacrificio valió la pena.

Y aquí estoy ahora, al borde de hacer realidad mis sueños, de darle sentido a la única razón por la cual mis padres vinieron a este país. Estoy en un momento crucial de mi vida cuando todas mis luchas, mi perseverancia, mi dedicación y los sacrificios de mis padres se combinarán para dar como resultado mi aceptación en una universidad selectiva. En el momento cuando abra esa carta de aceptación y vea la felicidad y orgullo en los ojos de mis padres, seré capaz de decir que he despertado del sueño americano para enfrentarme a una hermosa realidad.

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