There’s a level of pressure placed onto a second-generation immigrant like myself. Growing up seeing the hardships and traumas my family had to face, a level of commitment and obsessiveness in having to be "successful" brewed in the back of my mind. Being the youngest of three and the only sibling born in the United States, it is safe to say that I had it the easiest. Living in low-income communities where there was a lack of resources and education especially during the 90’s, played a psychological toll on our family.
In an effort to giving us a better lifestyle, my parents worked numerous jobs without taking breaks. They are the best parents anyone can ask for. Seeing that much intensity of hard work, their constant rush, and selflessness, I felt the obligation of replicating that. There are no breaks in between. It is hard to find peace when there is limited time to reflect, to process emotions, and to heal.
I had a really hard time expressing myself as a child. In kindergarten, I gravitated towards play-dough while experimenting with it by adding water, creating childish hard-to-tell-what-it-is sculpture. I noticed that there was an after-school program, I signed up. There wasn’t much structure but it allowed us to draw and play outside. A year or two afterward, my father brought art books home. He was a handyman for a couple of buildings and anytime those tenants would throw anything out, they would tip him to throw it out for them. It usually consisted of a lot of books, furniture, and clothing, which he would recycle and bring home if they were in good condition. Although I was too young to read those books, I understood the pictures. There was step by step pictures on how to sketch and draw, I decided to replicate what I saw. I had a hard time focusing in school, I was an average student but when it involved the arts it felt natural to me.
In middle school, it was evident, I had trouble writing and expressing myself properly. I don’t remember who it was exactly but I remember someone suggesting that I should sign up for a poetry class that was held after classes. People are surprised when I tell them that I have a hard time expressing myself at times; I turn to poetry to alleviate frustrations. It gives me time to reflect and analyze situations. This is my story with the arts and how it has molded who I am today.
It is evident that communities of color have faced hardships that have affected individuals psychologically. We are taught to be strong and not allowing circumstances to faze us. Seeking professional help and processing emotions is not commonly accepted. My mission is to promote the arts as it is a tool for people to express themselves along with promoting mental health awareness. I am no therapist or a consultant in this field but rather an advocate to help others in breaking the stigma.