I recently watched the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” for the first time. After watching it, one of the things that stood out to me the most was how much I was able to relate to the notion of putting family first — Especially being a first-generation American and coming from an Asian background where family literally means everything.
In Filipino culture, similar with many other Asian cultures, everything you do is for your family and everything you are is because of your family. Ultimately, your family determines your fate.
However, now that times have changed and Asian culture has become increasingly more progressive, younger generations are torn between living in the past versus the present; choosing between tradition and transformation. — This is essentially the conflict that overcomes the plot of the story for the two main characters in the movie whom fell madly in love with each other.
In the movie, Eleanor Young — Mother of Nick young, the wealthy bachelor — said to the bachelorette Rachel Chu,
“You’re a foreigner. American — and all Americans think about is their own happiness.”
This quote really resonated with me because it made think about my own family. It made me think of my own American-ism intwined with my Filipino-ism and how much the two overlap. And I know this is something that many others deal with as well.
As an American, my mindset for aspiring towards a career, and life in general, is that you can do anything that you set your mind out to do — Motivated by phrases like, “Don’t let anything stand in your way” or “It’s never too late to embark on a new journey.”
And I still do truly believe that, especially since I’m not married and don’t have children (That always makes it a lot easier, of course). But, what happens when you eventually do get married, bear children, and have to support a family of your own? Does that mindset become much harder to believe? Does it become less of a reality?
When my parents came to America, they didn’t have children. They weren’t even married. However, they knew that immigrating to America would open up doors of possibilities for them and ultimately pave the path for their future children — And it did. But, when they finally did have children, I wonder if they had to give up any dreams of their own in order to put their family first.
American culture is so highly sold into the ideal of “living the American dream.” — Work hard, work passionately, let nothing stand in your way and you’ll succeed. Maybe this is why family is not at the forefront of our priorities? Maybe it’s why we have divided households or why some marriages fail? We strive towards doing whatever it takes to become successful even if it means putting our family in second place.
When I was in college, I worked at a nursing home. I was an “Activities Professional” which essentially meant that I sang songs and ran bingo games for the residents. However, the thing that I was most curious about whenever I observed the nursing home residents was that there was a very low percentage of elderly minorities, specifically those of Asian descent.
Then, I thought back to my own family (my grandparents) and realized that my parents, aunts, and uncles watched over them once they grew old. They didn’t put them in a nursing home or hire a caretaker. They cared for them themselves. They put their family first. And that’s something that I had a clear understanding of when I watched the movie, “Crazy Rich Asians” — Everything you do is for the family.
You see, the thing that I feel so very torn about when it comes to chasing your dreams is this,
How selfish are we allowed to be?
Or I think the better question is, “How selfish is too selfish?” When it comes to chasing dreams, we should all know that it doesn’t come without making some sacrifices along the way. But at what cost?
Growing up, I was raised to put family first and it’s something that will continue to be the foundation of my values. That’s not to say that I won’t work hard and strive towards succeeding in my career goals and my goals outside of work. I will make sacrifices, but not at the cost of the people whom I care about the most. Though, I guess that’s my own individual choice.
Not all families are the same. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have loving and kind parents. Not everyone if fortunate enough to even like their family. And with family, we cannot choose blood. But, we can choose our outcome — Which is what I have learned from my American-ism and Filipino-ism.
I am fortunate to be able to prioritize my family if need be, because I love them. However, I am also fortunate to be able to choose my path because I know that my family loves me and supports that choice. So, when it comes to chasing your dreams, just know the price you’ll pay in order to get there. As long as you’re okay with it, then it’s your choice to make.