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My American Dream.

Being 1st Generation American is Heavy.

Natasha Nichole Lake Article for Thrive Global

I am a millennial. I am the stereotypes, the accolades, the brilliance, the innovation, and the erratic behavior . We’re the reason chain restaurants close and we’re responsible for the greatest innovations in modern history. I get it.

We have so much to say about what we believe and what freedom means. We don’t want to be ostracized or exempted because of our choices. We don’t want to be required to subscribe to societal norms. It’s complicated. I feel like I’m in a situationship with society, with the expectations of others, with my identity, with the outdated idea that any person should expect to have one monochromatic (that’s not a typo so don’t @ me) career.

I am first generation American. I am as African American as I am Latina. My grandfather left Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and migrated to a peaceful, serene Caribbean island where my mom grew up. When she was 18, my mom packed her bags and moved to New York. Big city. Bright lights- yes. Basement apartments- absolutely. She went to school, graduated with a certification in cosmetology and started her career. Then, in 1986, I showed up making demands and her whole life changed.

She taught me everything I know. Her most consistent message was “you have to get an education if you want to be successful and thrive in this country”. I believed her. I became her American dream. My twenties were a decade of to-do lists, comprised of choices I hoped would show her how well she raised me. There were moments, when she couldn’t find the words, that her smile affirmed what I’d always wanted to hear. My success validated the sacrifices she made.

When I turned 30, I started asking myself some hard questions that transformed the way I live my life. I traded in the briefcase for a cute backpack, replaced the laptop with a notebook and a pen, and left the office in search for breath taking stretches of land out West. I wanted what most people in Western society can’t find and can’t buy.

Peace.

I found God in the simplest sunsets and the quiet chaos of self-discovery. I knew then there was no turning back. The stress that couples “success” in this great land of opportunity is the number one cause of heart failure which is the number one cause of death.

So many immigrants come here and work themselves to the bone in hopes to give their children lives better than their own and we’re grateful. We really are. But, for those of us who have the privilege and opportunity to question and analyze life’s authentic meaning, there’s so much that matters in this life beyond working to afford luxuries that depreciate.

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