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home : community : community Wednesday, May 22, 2019

6/21/2017 4:43:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
My Story Of Being Hmong In America

By Nancy Lee

Growing up as a Hmong person in America is not easy. The traditions of our Hmong culture always clash with the ways of the American culture. In the Hmong culture, it does not matter what age you are, as long as you are still living under the same roof as your parents, you are under their control. When I say control, I meant that you still have to ask permission about going out or buying a car. However, in the American culture once you turn 18 you can start making your own decisions and do things however you please. It is not easy to be a Hmong person growing up in America, especially if you are a daughter and your family is still very traditional.

I remember when I turned 18. I had about 2½ months left before I finished high school. My friends had all turned 18 before me. Of course, we were all Hmong except for our two Kedu (African American) friends. They were the most "Hmong-washed" friends that I've ever had. When my friends turned 18 they started going out and staying out late on school nights, slept over at each other's house, and drove hours to hangout at some park. When I turned 18, they expected me to do the same as them, but they did not understand. I still lived with my parents. They all knew my family is the most traditional and strict family from our group of friends. Everyone else's parents were more lenient because they have dropped most of the Hmong traditions and adapted to the American culture. However, my parents did not. My parents were still following the traditions of the Hmong people from Laos and Thailand.

For months my friends tried to get me to hangout with them and do everything they did with them. During this time in life I struggled. I struggled to see who was my friend and who wasn't. Every day they tried to convince me to go with them, but they were always rejected. Not once did I think that I should do as they say and rebel against my parents. "I will not do such a thing," I replied. I never knew that having friends would be this hard. Soon after, they stopped trying to get me to go with them. Instead, they left me. They decided that I was no longer their friend. The last time I was with my "friends," we sat and talked for hours. Unfortunately, I did not realize that this would be the end of our friendship. They yelled at me and created false rumors about me. I went there to confess to them. I was hurt and I wanted them to know. I wanted my "friends," to see how hurt I was. I cried and told them that they never took time to realize that my parents were not like theirs. Even so, they did not care. Even my best friend abandoned me, leaving our friendship of 10 years behind as if it meant nothing to her. Even though I lost a group of friends, I'd rather lose than gain some that just stick around when they feel like it. Being Hmong in America was hard overall.

Something that was even harder than being Hmong in America is specifically being a Hmong daughter in America. My parents expected me to balance my job, school, and all the chores at home altogether. I struggled so much throughout high school. Once I get home, I should go straight to doing the chores, but I didn't. My parents didn't like that when I got home I went straight to homework. They accused me of using my homework as an excuse to not do the chores. I usually got home around 4:00-4:30 PM. Then I would do my homework right away and finish around 9:30 PM. It would be so late that dinner was done and only the load of dishes remained. I remember my mother being furious that I didn't do chores.

I spent sleepless nights doing homework because I chose to follow what my mom wanted. I did chores before I did my homework. One after another, the chores didn't end until 10:00 or even 11:00 PM some nights. I stayed up until 2:00-3:00 AM doing my homework and got up at 5:00 AM to get ready for school the next day. For four years of high school, I did this. When my graduation came along, I was happy. However, I was disappointed that I could have done better but I didn't. I would cry to myself late at night because I was graduating, but I was disappointed in how I graduated. My grades weren't the best, but I did what I could. In the end, my mother was happy to know I graduated. Even though I graduated as a National Honor Society student, I didn't do as well as expected. Most of my peers were part of NHS and graduated as the top students. As a Hmong daughter, I was expected to balance school, work, and household chores. Never in my life did I think it was possible.

At one point I wanted to die, but I survived those thoughts. Today, I still cannot find time to balance all of these things at once. I'm afraid that I will lose focus on one and start focusing on the other. However, I am glad my parents raised me like this. They taught me that life isn't easy. "You must work hard now and live easy later," my father would say to me. I agree with what he said. To this day, I do not regret anything at all. I'm glad life happened the way it did. I'm happy to be Hmong. Even though it was a tough journey, life is like my father said, "easier."

Growing up in America, I am glad that my parents still value the traditions of the Hmong culture. Even when I was hurt from losing my friends, not a moment did I regret being Hmong or having a traditional family. Even though growing up in America isn't easy, I know that I will be better than those who left me behind, I know that I can show them who they lost. After this incident I worked even harder in school. This made me realize how much I loved my parents and how much the Hmong traditions meant to me. I loved everything about being Hmong - the clothes, the language, the culture, and the traditions. Growing up in America as a Hmong daughter in a traditional family isn't easy, but it made me who I am today.

St. Paul, MN



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