Dreaming since 1993, awake now in 2021
Today, I wrote a letter to my future self.
I’m scared. I’m terrified, and I’m sad about what lies for me in the future. Everything is uncertain, like anything can change any minute. A year ago, I was so sure of what I wanted and what I was willing to sacrifice for. But now everything has changed.
For 27 years, my mother had one dream. It started way before my brother and I came. It was already there when we were born, and it has determined practically our present and our future.
Back in 1993, my mother decided that no matter what it took, she would be able to set foot in the precious land of America, and stay there. She wanted to partake of the American dream.
Unfortunately, dreams aren’t always sweet. For 17 years, my mother failed in her quest. She was bad at pursuing what it took to make her dream come true. A Filipino nurse, she didn’t have any problem when she took the NCLEX exam. However, as English was not her first language, she repeatedly flunked the speaking section in the IELTS exam. For 17 years.
It was definitely a crucial time for our family. Taking this particular English exam was no joke. It required months and months of Cambly tutorials with different English speakers around the world, and this type of review required a lot of money. The exam was not cheap, either.
Coming from a middle-class family, we didn’t have the means to support my mother the way we wanted to. Soon, the debts piled up, and my mother was almost fired from her work for spending too much time reviewing for her exams rather than working. Thankfully, we have family members who helped us along the way and believed in my mother—even if I myself was already starting to doubt her.
Fortunately, my mother proved my doubts wrong. In 2018, she passed the IELTS exam, finally getting that 6.5 score in speaking. Life became sweet for us when we finally had our appointment for interview at the US embassy. It became even sweeter when our passports were delivered to us with our visas stamped on it. And it became sweetest when we finally heard our pilot announcing that we had landed in O’Hare International Airport.
Everything was sweet—but then we had to wake up.
I thought we had already woken up when I was forced to abandon my dream school, which I had prayed so hard to enter, and studied instead in a school I hadn’t previously heard of. I thought we had already woken up when my father decided to leave his stable job in Saudi Arabia for a country that was thousands of miles away from our home. I thought we had already woken up when we were faced with sacrifices and we had to compromise so that we could follow the American dream.
But we were still sleeping. We were still dreaming.
The thing that really woke us up were the attacks. The hate against the Asian-American community. Now, our eyes are fully opened, and we are scared and terrified that we are the next target. How could my mother dream for years to live in a country where we now don’t feel safe? Every time I go to a supermarket, I am anxious that something is going to happen to me—and thinking that I should be living a dream, but it has turned into a nightmare.
Today, I’m writing this for the future of every Asian-American out there.
We are terrified, and we are sad about what lies ahead for us. Everything is uncertain and everything can definitely change any minute. But we are here. We are here in the country that our parents and grandparents fought so hard for, to give us a better future—a future that no one can take away from us.
I have to tell myself: Everything will be better. The future will be okay.
Donna Mae P. Mactal, 19, a former occupational therapy student at UP Manila, is currently a Nursing student at St. Charles Community College, Missouri.
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