As I was going through the morning ritual of reading my Twitter account, which has become cliff notes of current news, I saw the headline, “Chloe Kim wins Winter X Games half pipe at age 14!” What an amazing accomplishment for a young lady!
To me, Chloe Kim symbolized everything that is good in America, my American dream, not to be a professional snowboarder which would have been supremely cool, but the freedom to become anything I wanted to be. In essence, the freedom to pursue what makes me happy.
Too often, pursuit of the American dream is associated with wealth and financial prosperity. We’ve all heard the classic tales of immigrants who come to America with nothing but a suitcase full of cloth and few dollars in his/her pocket. They pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and with hard work and perseverance manage to not only get ahead but achieve extraordinary success. These are the stories of the John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, Jerry Wang (Co-Founder of Yahoo), and these tales resonate today as it did back in the days when immigrants landed on Ellis Island.
However, for me, becoming the next Rockefeller or Jerry Wang couldn’t be furthest from my American dream. Without discounting the importance making a living or having a stable income, my dream of making it in America wasn’t measured by financial success or status symbols, but whether I was able to do the things that made me happy, that I felt passionate about, and that allowed me to constantly learn and grow as a person.
Even as a young girl, my mind was always wandering and my interest was towards doing more creative things like music, writing, drawing, and visualizing all the places I wanted to be in the world, rather than Math or Science. I knew I wanted to work in Fashion and knew as soon as I visited NYC that it was going to be the place where my dreams would come true.
I graduated from university with a major in Business and Marketing in order to accommodate my mother’s wish; however, in the back of my mind, I always knew that one day, I would live in NYC and work in the Fashion industry. More importantly, I knew that I would travel and see the world.
Fortunately, I have been able to achieve all that I have dreamed of as a little girl, and more importantly, as a daughter of an immigrant, and I know now that my dreams could have been realized only in America. I am more certain of this today after having traveled and lived all over the world, as I know all too well the struggles and challenges that migrants, ethnic minorities and people of color face in foreign societies as well as their own.
As a nation, we still have a lot of problems and issues that we have to work together, i.e. race relations, providing universal healthcare, marriage equality for LGBT community, etc. However, we’ve come a long way as a nation in providing all people the freedom and opportunities to live the life that they want.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all capable of becoming the next Nobel Prize Winner or a billionaire like Mark Zuckerberg (or do we want to be), but the possibility is available to everyone, regardless of their gender, ethnicity (race) or religion.
Therefore, I am inspired when I read about amazing people like Chloe Kim, a young woman whose parents are immigrants from Korea, who followed her passion of becoming something unconventional that defies societal expectations and stereotypes, as this is uniquely American.