In the war-torn and barren lands of Afghanistan, there lived a young boy. His father died when he had just turned three, leaving his mother with nothing but an unbearable amount of responsibility and trouble. The little boy dreamed big and had aspirations to become something great. He told his mother that he wanted to be an engineer. He would come home everyday and tell his mom about the adventures he had in school and how he made sure he was keeping up with his grades. Afterall, he was the next male figure in the house after his father, which meant that the expectations were set high. “Mother, I have the second highest gpa in my class!”, he would say as he returned home from school every evening. He never failed to get straight A’s and exceeded in everything he put his mind into. His wishes were soon granted and he became an engineer. He also got married, had six children, and moved to America which basically meant he was living the dream compared to most Afghan citizens. At least, that’s how you would hope the story would progress, but unfortunately for him, reality was much more complicated.
The little boy’s name was Hamid. He came from a poor family and barely had enough food or wealth to support his basic needs. After his father’s death, Hamid was forced to grow up fast in order to take care of his little sister, Nasima. During lunch time, he would look through other student’s bags and grab leftovers, quickly eating it before anyone could catch him. He once saw a bar of soap on the floor and assumed it was food so he picked it up and ate it. Unfortunately for him, it only left a bitter taste in his mouth. Even though he worked hard and had an outstanding gpa, it wasn’t enough and it never would be. Fastforwarding to a few years later, conditions in Afghanistan worsened because of the Soviet war. Poverty was more common, the rich, green lands were now ruins, and what was once a lively country was now a homeless and hopeless civilization. However, with no transportation under the palm of his feet, migrating to another country would almost be impossible. He walked thousands of miles across the country’s borders and into Pakistan. Along the way, he was forced to climb mountains, avoid the tragic weather conditions, and still survive off of bread and crumbs. Leaving his country also meant that he was leaving apart of him behind. Deep down, he knew that his life would never be the same and that he would have to work twice as hard if he wanted a better future not only for himself, but for his family as well. Before he left Afghanistan, he was offered scholarships to study abroad in both Russia and Czechoslovakia, but because he saw so much unfairness and hatred in the world, he decided not to go. He suffered and went through so much pain, praying that maybe one day he would be able to live happily. He cried and got on his knees, placing both hands in the air as he told God about all his troubles and worries. In times of need, he often turned to God to help him and would stand over his prayer rug for hours, hoping that his calls would be answered. Little did he know, his life was about to go through a roller coaster, but he would be content in the end.
There were times where Hamid felt as if the world was against him, but that only gave him motivation to continue pursuing his dream. He soon moved to America and found love, a woman who was just as hardworking and motivated as him. This woman, Zainab, sacrificed everything to support her family. Together, they found ways to learn English and encouraged each other through hardships. Although they never completed their college degrees, they have put nothing but countless efforts and dedication into building a future for their kids. Since they were both Afghan immigrants, it was hard for them to adapt to the culture, but they knew that their children would have a better future than they did. Zainab always had interests in science, so she studied nonstop until she became a medical assistant. Hamid, on the other hand had it harder because he worked in a cart that sold breakfast and coffee. He would wake up 4 am every morning, only to work for hours on the cold streets of New York. Life was complicated, but it was manageable and better compared to what they had seen in Afghanistan, but then again, anything was better than the life they had there.
As a child of these immigrants, I have to say that I’m pretty lucky to be living the life I am now. Kids my age would practically be married and forced to do labor, which is devastating but it happens a lot in third world countries. It isn’t easy being a Muslim and adjusting to American culture, especially when my religion is targeted throughout the media. As an American citizen and Muslim, I want people to know that I mean no harm to them in any shape or form. My religion shouldn’t have to define how people view me, my actions should. My parents came to this country to seek a new life; one that didn’t involve warfare and gunshots. They came here because they wanted their kids to pursue the education that they never got to receive. My mother feared leaving her house because children were killed and mercilessly raped everyday. She didn’t want me to grow up in that type of environment, especially because she knew the effects it would have on my future and health. My father came here because he didn’t want me to have to starve every day like he did and work both day and night in order to make a profit. He made sure I was spoiled with toys and nonstop affection because these were things that my parents never had while growing up. They were forced to age fast and till this day, they sacrifice so much of their time trying to make sure I grow up to be an independent adult.
This battle to lead a new lifestyle all started with with one word; sacrifice. My parents sacrificed their culture in order to adapt to a new one. They sacrificed their well being in order for me to have a better and bright future. They sacrificed their youth so that they could provide for the family with a sufficient amount of food. They sacrificed their sleep so that I could get an education and be able to afford college. Making them proud is not an option, it’s a must. If it’s a sacrifice I must make, then so be it, but nothing will stop me from reaching my endgame. I have a purpose and although I don’t know what it is yet, one thing is for certain. I need to create a positive change and the be the voice for those who aren’t heard.