Aug 05, 2020
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A NEW WOMAN

THEY DON’T CHOOSE TO BE HERE. THEY ARE NOT asked whether they want to flip their lives upside down and restructure their beliefs.

But every year thousands of immigrant kids find themselves in the foreign soil of opportunity, the United States, unprepared for the myriad of decisions before them.

No one asked them if they wanted to run across the border in the middle of the night. Yet they do, and when they arrive, they are expected to embrace this culture without letting go of their own.

Men’s roles do not change much, but women have options that are not even thought of in their countries, let alone talked about.

Comparable in size are the dreams set up for their girls, dreams that are lost when the unspoken reality of assimilation dawns upon both parents and daughters.

Since I was 15, I knew I wanted to get married and have four kids by the age of 25. I have now passed that mark, and I have no kids.

I came to this country when I was very young and after doing a couple of years of grade school in Mexico, I found myself face to face with the Los Angeles Unified School District. There, I heard for the first time of a 26-year-old teacher’s assistant who was not married.

At the time, I was only seven years old and decided not to question it. Surely, it was an oddity of nature not to be questioned.

Immigrant girls can be mothers and can make their parents grandparents.

They can defy conventionalism and become the talk of the town in their pueblo by staying alone and childless.

They can be single mothers. They can be career women. They can be promiscuous and not feel bad about it. They can be what they want.

Most however, will not choose. They will go for it all.

And so it is not uncommon to find these girls at home helping mom with dinner as they try to do their homework and text their friends at the same time. They continue juggling their different personalities.
It wasn’t long until I felt the world was there for the taking and I wanted it all. I wanted the home life, the career life, the party life.

I went swapping from one lifestyle to another. All of a sudden, I had so many options and none felt any better than the others. I knew that if I put my mind to it, I would be great at whatever I chose.
But how to choose?

At school, my torta de frijoles did not match the ham and cheese sandwiches the rest of the kids had. Most kids would come to school after their vacation talking about their summer camps. I would come back talking about my grandmas house and the egg shells she put on the tip of her aloe vera plants to keep it from being burned by the sun.

The duality I encountered in this country has made me who I am — a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. I have learned to adapt to any situation but have also learned that I don’t belong in any one group.

The traditional good girl that I had been taught to be went head to head with the righteous woman I thought I could be. I saw it was not fair to have women sitting quietly at home, taking the back row when it felt that I could do just as good a job as any man.

I knew I could justify anything I chose to do to the world but I could not let go of anything. I wanted the home with a white picket fence, but I also wanted the loft in New York City.

Then it dawned on me, I could not have it all. I had to choose, and like a deer in headlights, life came at me like a speeding car. I became prisoner of my own free will and instead, finding my identity became more like building it without a floor plan.

All I have left like many immigrant women is to go forward and make way for the generations to come.

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