Like most children immigrants, I didn’t have any say in the big move to the United States of America. For some children, the move may seem like an adventure. But for others, the adventure involves leaving behind all that was once familiar in order to try to adapt to a world that even your parents are lost in. My mother, the only parent I’ve ever had, relied on me so much so; it sometimes felt as if we had somehow switched roles. Slowly, I began feeling the burden of being responsible for my mother. Feeling like it was my duty to ensure she was able to navigate around this new world, since I was the one adapting to it with greater ease.
I grew up sooner than most. After all, I was responsible for so much more. I was often praised for having more maturity than my peers. Such is the life of an immigrant child. There is a duality to our nature that most of our peers could never embody. Our minds have to think in twos, always translating from one dialect to another. Always having to remember whom it is we are speaking to in order for the correct language to be spoken. We have to see the world through the lenses of our audience in order to ensure that we can truly relay the messages we are telling them. It often makes us more empathetic and more selfless.
I bond better with people. I believe many immigrant children have an understanding of the world around us that most aren’t privy to. We are analytical by nature because we had to study the world around us more than once. We have to first make sense of the world for our own comprehension, and then have to continuously revisit it to explain it to our parents and anyone else in our families that aren't able to quite grasp it. We take in all of the information the world has to give and then we must scrutinize it in order to share it. Such a role, causes you to be attentive, to listen, to care, Perhaps that is why strangers tend to share intimate details about their lives with me, and friends often seek my advice.
Feeling compassion for others, seems to be a constant with immigrant children whose roles mirror my own. We are given the task to be responsible for our parents and in the process, we tend to feel responsible for the world.
Val Valtrain is a writer, a mother, an American, an immigrant, and the daughter of immigrants. She is interning with the Film Lab.
**Special thanks to Ricardo Arechiga for his graphic design of the project logo**