I come from two hard-working parents who make around forty grand a year combined in order to feed a family of eight. My parents have always taught me to work hard, and to be determined to get what I want because they came from Thailand where you basically had to live off of what you farmed and gathered. I grew up in a duplex in the “ghetto,” and I was going to public schools in that area until I graduated from high school. I always appreciated the free education and living in a secure house, rather than walking and paying for school in Thailand and living in a hut made of grass. Finding my cultural identity has been a struggle since I started school. My parents are Hmong and believe in Shamanism. I was raised up in the United States being exposed to many other cultures and ideas. There is just so much out there that I can grasp everything.
Being Hmong American has definitely had its challenges. Being a minority in my community wasn’t something that was unusual, but the bad influences and identifying myself as an American was hard. Growing up from the “ghetto” had its influences on me. There was a time where I thought being a bad kid was the cool thing to do, which made me develop bad habits and bad grades. My groups of friends at the time were all Caucasian, but I didn’t have any friends who were the same ethnicity as me. I thought that having friends who were only Caucasian made me more American. The Shaman religion was taboo to the American culture, and I wanted to be normal. It wasn’t until I was older though that I understood my roots and why it makes me unique as a person. I learned a lot about myself as a person, and I continue to work on myself so I can make not only myself proud, but my parents as well.
Photo and caption by: Arriayn Thao, Lynzie Reichel, Kiara Ubl