I believe that my father has shaped me into who I am, and this is my way of thanking him.
Maybe this will be just another immigrant story or perhaps an outlandish one to others, but this is the story of my father and thus my story as well. When he accepted the offer from the University of Miami to pursue his Ph.D., he viewed the step as an opportunity that would enable a better life for his family in the United States. His airplane took him away from a rural part of Shandong, China called Tengxian, and made him the first in his family to leave his small home without electricity and plumbing. He left a place of his childhood: early mornings of collecting manure, long afternoons of repeatedly fetching water, and itchy nights of inadequate mosquito nets. Then, a competitive score on a college entrance exam became the first step to a life transformation.
My father’s experiences and personality always found life in the power of his words. As a child, if I complained at the dinner table, he reminded me of his achy yearning when he saw steamed rolls eaten by the middle class or his excitement from the rare hint of meat in his dinner bowl. Even when we celebrated as a family, my father would mention how he came to the U.S. with only fifty dollars of borrowed money. His strong personality has forged the way so far, and according to him, he still has good additional forty years or so.
This mentality directly found its way into my heart. His recollections always have a point, and it is always directed at me. “I went to teachers’ homes after class to better understand the material,” really means, “Education is key, and you must internalize the belief, weight, and promise in that.” His carefully planted depictions of his toilet as a hole in the backyard place my life in perspective and develop my sensitivity. Finally, his hardships expound a no-excuses policy that now arms me to surpass my goals.
Yet, a simple phrase like “American dream” falls flat if I am really to describe a multifarious man. Not quite fitting with the insatiable ambition described thus far, my dad is also ready with jokes, sure to laugh at them, filled with quirks, and layered in subtleties. Truth is, he has also given me less than stellar advice – “If someone bullies you, you can beat them up.” But he also followed it up with, “Don’t allow others to treat you poorly. You are who you are.”
This story is an excerpt of my father’s story because I have not forgotten where I came from, feel ungrateful for what I have, or take credit for all the good I see in myself. I believe in the power of words and my pride in my family. I may have achieved full-score on the SAT, earned 4.0’s during 21 and 22-credit semesters during college, but it was my father’s essence behind that. This, I believe.
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