BY DEBBIE ALMOCERA
When my younger daughter moved to the United States almost 4 years ago, I remembered thinking “I finally did it!” Now both my daughters are here. The feeling of having succeeded in pursuing a personal goal that was grounded on an enormous amount of personal sacrifice was euphoric. The fact that we are in America, is a dream come true, at least for me.
The fact of the matter is that, my older daughter is already deep in the quagmire of the so-called American way of life, with a highly demanding 9 to 5 job, a mortgage, car payment, and the perennial quest for the newest technological gadget she could lay her hands on.
My younger daughter “took off running”, so to speak. She went straight to College, took a part time job, found herself a boyfriend (with no car), and unnervingly declared her highly opinionated views on “facebook”. Needless to say, it appears that my daughters’ adjustment from what I perceived as a difficult transition was in fact, as easy as uprooting an already decaying tree.
I grew up in the Philippines where terminologies such as “depression, anxiety attacks, and premenstrual syndrome”, are as foreign to me as the names of the meteorites in space. Listening to my daughters bounce these terms amongst them and their friends scares me, coming from the field from which these terms originate. I grew up thinking people become sick because they lack food to eat, or got physically hurt in some way. God forbid, if you ever have a “nervous breakdown” (a very common phrase at that time), you shall walk in your knees from the church gate to the main altar, and beg for forgiveness. For what exactly, I have no clue. Now if you happen to have Schizophrenia, a mental disorder I only fully understood when I went to graduate school in the US, you will have to stay indoors for the rest of your life, or your whole family will disown you.
I often wonder to what extent our primary culture has a grip on us, until we slowly let go, and not only assimilate to the culture we are in now, but internalize it, as if, it was always ours.
It is definitely exciting to see my girls live the kind of life I wanted for myself a long time ago. I always tell them how lucky they are, for having the opportunity to see the world early on, and to enjoy a relatively luxurious lifestyle, which I only dreamed of when I was their age. They never had to go through the kind of transition that I went through. I had to depend on friends, relatives, and sometimes strangers to get me to places, sometimes feed me, house me, and give me the inspiration to keep going, when my goals start to get blurry in my head. I remember asking myself why I am so far away from the people I care the most. There were times I wanted to give up, turn around, and drop everything I have worked hard to achieve. If there was ever a time for depression to set in, or any type of temporary psychotic episode, it would have been these times.
But I was more resilient than I thought. The very reasons why I kept going are now annoyingly whining in front of me. There has never been a more stark contrast in the transitions my daughters and I went through. I look at them and I feel proud of myself, until one of them starts complaining about a 2-pound weight gain, or being “profoundly bored and depressed.”
Debbie Almocera is a licensed therapist working in the behavioral medicine department of one of the largest hospitals in St. Louis, Missouri. For her, there has not been a more fulfilling and rewarding career than the one she has now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org