Our Stories: I grow old…I grow old…

Adrian Balvuena ’19, Staff Writer

Adrian Balvuena ’19

I grow old…I grow old…

     This violent fear chips away the ends of my gaiety as I slowly think about it more and more. It’s like quicksand, engulfing me as I struggle to be ignorant through avoidance. These thoughts can sometimes put me in a state of confusion, hazinness, and guilt.

     It’s not the fear of dying that makes me want to crawl into my bed; it’s the verity that each time the sun sets, I grow old, as do the people I care about. Each day is another fallen piece of our lives, and eventually  you will run out of pieces and be unable to fulfill your last aspirations.

     My youth is spent worrying. I constantly worry about my standing in school, trying to fulfill what society tells me is the ultimate goal: getting into college. I am always looking towards the future, not realizing that I am never going to reach it because I am always in the present. Looming thoughts that I could be doing something bigger and better constantly torment me.

     Why should I waste time brooding over that math score I got for Unit 2.2, when life is so much more than that? But I do. I exhaust my mind, thinking that I will never get to the future that society and my parents want. It’s like being a waiting room, expecting for something to happen, until nothing does because I didn’t choose to open the door and leave.

     I have lived in the Bronx for most of my life, making it my home, not only physically, but also making it a place of comfort in my heart whenever I am faraway. However, being a first-generation American divides my definition of home into two. My parents grew up in a small village in an isolated valley in Mexico, and decided to immigrate in pursuit of a better education. Being part of two countries has obligated me and the first-generation of hispanics to be voices, or more accurately, ambassadors, for our place of origin and place of birth. First-generation Americans come from families who have dreams to have a better education, better jobs, and better lives, and receive the burden of trying to find a voice in the chaotic world of America.

     There was not one particular day where I suddenly figured out I was both Mexican and American, it was part of my everyday life. The neighborhood I grew up in was filled with hispanic immigrants just like my parents, so I never found it unordinary that most of my friends were first-generation children like my sisters and I. Throughout my elementary and middle school career, most of the students in my classes spoke spanish and had brown skin, which entrapped us in a bubble of ignorance and comfortability. In the streets of the Bronx, you could hear the older ladies gossiping away in spanish, while sitting on the dryer chairs of a salon. On one hand, they had a magazine spilling all the secrets of their favorite novela, and on the other, they had a cigarette slowly filling the salon with smoke. Outside, the children played soccer in the middle of the road, having to stop everytime a car came through. I was never fully aware or conscious about the color of my skin or my ability to speak two languages until my transition from middle school to high school happened.

 

     Going to high school was one step closer to reaching my dream of going to college so I could have a well-paying job that I loved—the dream for many first generation teenagers right now. My decision to go to an independent boarding school was a key step in my life. It granted me an educational environment where the students and teachers are passionate about learning inside and outside the classroom. In my previous schools, I had passionate teachers in schools with limited resources. There were at least thirty students in one classroom, we had to share a gym with another school, and our school was underfunded, not allowing us to stretch our minds and limits. My parents came to the United States to give us a chance to be able to do what we loved, and as a result, with the help of a non-profit organization called The TEAK Fellowship that helps prepare bright underprivileged students in New York, I applied to private schools that would give me the chance to be on the same playing field as other students whose lives were already destined to traject towards college.

     As my family drove me to my new home for the next four years, the bubble of comfortability of living in the Bronx with neighbors that had similar backgrounds as my family began to pop. When we arrived, I immediately saw a pool of white students and parents filling the hallways of the school and campus. I felt like an ant among lions. The color of my skin and my economic status compared to them made me feel smaller. I wanted to scrunch up into a ball and cry tears of shame.

 

     The first-generation of teenagers I am a part of are constantly feeling an immense pressure from all the corners of their lives to succeed and not succumb to easier paths of life. Our parents left countries to escape poverty and violence, in the hope that their children would have better lives than they had when they were younger. The pressure and anxiety caused by our parents’ sacrifice can sometimes eat us whole whenever we fail an exam or an assignment, fearing that we will disappoint ourselves, and especially our parents.

     Everyday when I wake up, I think about the amount of work my parents have done and still do everyday in order to make me and my three other siblings happy and content, which creates a wave of sadness that rushes over me, over and over again. The realization that they are never going to have the lives they dreamed of when they were children always hits me like a truck. As a result, I feel a sense of duty that I have to accomplish what they couldn’t in order to make them and myself proud. This pressure can slowly eat away at me for an eternity, even though my parents just want me to follow and choose a path that will lead me into a life I love.

     I will go to college, but with a voice of uncertainty and guilt telling me that I possibly wasted my youth looking only into the future. I do realize that I will never get answers from a sageous old man living in a hidden cave up in the mountains, so all I can do is continue.