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Waleid Hassan



My parents immigrated from Egypt. My siblings and I are first generation born Americans. In addition to all that I am the first-born son. Being a first-born, a son of immigrant parents, and first generation American each comes with more than their fair share of responsibility. Being both is a burden.

Being the first-born of immigrant parents right away comes with high expectations, high pressure, and low tolerance for silly mistakes. I am supposed to be the model child for my siblings. Every misstep is magnified. By misstep I am talking about mistakes that the common child makes such as not passing a test, leaving your jacket open during winter, spilling food, getting detention, etc. When a misstep happened there would be this moment where I would literally be in fear about how they would react to my mistake. Every day, throughout preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college constantly on your toes, carrying this pressure in hopes of making my parents proud of you. Making their struggle immigrating from one country to another worth it.

Being the son of immigrant parents along with being the first-born of immigrant parents adds to the weight that I carry with me all the time. Automatically accepting the role as the “guinea pig” for my siblings to learn from. I was always the first to make the “big mistake” and experience certain milestones. I was the first one to get suspended, to get caught shoplifting, punch a hole in the wall, break a TV, and many more. Because I was the first, my siblings now knew better to not be the second. I got to experience getting a job, getting my license, graduating high school, going through college, getting my bachelors, having an “adult” job, getting into grad school, and many more. Because I was the first to have experience in these things my siblings got to learn from me and had a much easier time accomplishing those things.

Continuing with this burden sandwich. I am the bottom slice of whole wheat bread, on top is the lettuce of being the son that is smothered in first-born sauce. Now comes the whole-pound beef patty of being the first generation American in the family. Traveling from one country to another is one of the hardest things to do. My parents left their family and home to move here. However, there is one thing that they will never let go of, their culture. Growing up in America means I have automatically learned the American culture in ways that I’m not aware of from schools, TV, internet, and many more places while simultaneously having the Egyptian culture being forced on me. As you would imagine there is a lot of cultural conflict that takes place which leads to a lot of arguments.

As I grew physically, socially, sexually, culturally and mentally there are things that I wanted to do that I knew would create clashes between me and my parents. Things like hanging out with my friends late at night, having a casual drink, dating girls outside of my family’s culture and religion, going to the bar, enjoying a Baconator from Wendy’s, choosing my own beliefs when it comes to religion, and many more things. People outside my culture may be thinking “You’re an adult, just stand up to you parents.” It much more complicated than that. My parents aren’t preventing me from doing these things because they are cruel and strict, thet love me They are simply trying to preserve their culture because they miss their home. Even though I believe their intention is pure, I got sick and tired of putting my parents culture ahead of my happiness. I must enjoy experience new things and enjoy myself.

Thankfully my parents lightened up in my second year of college. I could leave the house from time to time to “hang out with my friends” after extensive debating with them. I could do some of the things that I listed earlier. It is exhausting tip-toeing around them and I really don’t like deceiving my parents but I had to do whatever it takes. I was a man on a mission. Whenever I went out I had to keep myself in check. I had to make sure that whatever I did stayed with me. I couldn’t go out too much or they might suspect something. Now, “going to school” and doing anything work related means the same thing as “hanging out with my friends.”

There are still things that I need to address. Eventually I need to come clean, how do I tell my parents that I don’t believe in a higher power or that I enjoy bacon and a casual drink? What if I marry a girl that’s outside my parent’s culture and religion? What if I decide to get those tattoos that I’ve been debating about getting for a few years? Whatever, I’ll worry about that when I move out. For now, I’ll just enjoy myself as much as I can.

Topping off this burden sandwich is the sweet bun of accomplishments covered in sesame seeds of successes, lightly toasted with perseverance, and brushed with the everlasting need to do better butter. Piercing through each layer this mighty sandwich is the steak knife of deep appreciation for my parents as all those burdens have/are contributed to my story of greatness. I was the first to graduate with a bachelor in my family, I’m a freaking math teacher, and I’m I grad school. Though my burden I know that I can push through adversity and challenges. I always see the glass half full, not because I’m a pessimist, but because I believe that no matter how good something is it can always be better. I am all this and more all because of the burden I inherited in being a first-born, a son, and first generation American from my parents.