Every year, thousands of Chinese people immigrate to America hoping for a better future. When my parents and grandparents recount stories of “back in the day”, it usually ends with a well-meaning “be thankful for what you have“.
When I visited China with my family this summer, it had been the first time in 20 years I had been back, the first time in 18 years for my father, it’s been a decade for my mother, and the very first time my sister had stepped foot in the country.
My parents never had many friends in the states, but back in China, I was simply overwhelmed by the number of second aunts, cousins, and family friends we had. I knew my parents had left much for us, but I felt I never really understood the personal sacrifice they had made until that moment.
For the sake of a better future, they said.
But was it still worth it?
I can’t compare the standard of living fifty years ago with now – the world itself has changed so much. What would have happened to my parents if they had not immigrated to America? Would they have been richer? Better off? Less stressed? Healthier? Would they be happier with how my sister and I turned out?
Back in China, they could have been surrounded by family and friends, living in a larger home, retired at 50, travelling, and relaxing.
Was America what they wanted it to be?
Where would we have been and
what would they have chosen
if they saw into the future
23 years ago?