Being raised in a family where immigration is the foundation has proved to have a profound effect on the person I am today. My father, along with both sets of my grandparents, is an Italian immigrant, and their experience in creating a better life has left a lasting impression on my family. As an Italian immigrant, my father found that his social life and school life would become very frustrating as compared to his peers who were American-born. Being that he was only six years old when he came to the United States, my father had a very difficult time learning the English language, especially because English has a much more complex system of rules than the Italian language does. Due to his lack of understanding of the language, my father’s classmates would constantly poke fun of him by calling him “ginny” and “guido”. My dad, frustrated in trying to assimilate, fought with those who bullied him and he found that confrontation would finds it’s way to becoming a major predicament in his young life. My grandmother always told me that this frustration really took a toll on my father, and she also told me that because of this, he wasn’t the most pleasant son.
I believe that the immigration experience for my father and my grandparents caused them to raise their kids the way they have, which can be a bit over bearing at times, in my opinion. My family is the more traditional type; very family oriented and a little on the strict side. My father always tells me that because he wasn’t the ideal child, his parents were very strict and harsh on their kids, especially towards his sisters. My aunts constantly share their childhood struggles with me, for they always had a hard time asking my grandparents to go out with their friends, especially when boys were involved, but they also told me that makeup was never to be worn around my grandparents, however somehow my aunts would always find a way to sneak some on while on their way to school. When I speak to my grandmother about my father’s childhood and their immigration experience, I always get the sense of fear; fear of the new life and people that would surround them, which would explain why they raised their kids in the way that they did.
Naturally, my father exhibits a lot of the same characteristics as his parents. I like to think that being the oldest of three girls in my family, I had it the hardest. When I was in middle school, going out with my friends was always a big deal and I was bombarded with questions before I went anywhere; who is going? What time are you coming home? However, my favorite question was, “will there be any boys?” and my parents always had to drop me off and pick me up from wherever I was headed to. Because I was so sheltered as a child, I became very scared and timid. I remember I used to wear a lot of big sweaters and baggy jeans, as if almost to hide myself, but I was always secretly jealous of my peers who kept up with the latest trends and shopped at the stores that were considered “cool” at that age. When I was in the eighth grade, all my girlfriends started experimenting with makeup, and when I would ask my parents if I could do the same I always heard the same answer, “you’re beautiful you don’t need makeup”.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school, that I took it upon myself to change. While meeting new people and forming relationships with those outside of my culture, I began to slowly try and break away from the ways of my parents. I began by easing my mother into letting me wear mascara and letting me go out with my friends, but I also tried sitting my parents down and sharing my concerns with them. Being that my mother was born in the United States, she was more understanding of how I was feeling, and in turn, would try and help my father to understand that I was in fact, growing up and channeling my ideal self. By my sophomore year, I really felt as if I found the person I really wanted to be. I was very outgoing when it came to my social life, I made many new friends, and I got myself a job at a pizzeria in my neighborhood. With the money from my new job, I bought myself new clothes and makeup, which would support the new style that I was aiming for. By my senior year, the shy Victoria was a thing of the past. Now, here I stand, a Macaulay Honors student, majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and the best part of the story is, that I am currently enrolled in cosmetology school to receive a certificate in professional makeup artistry.
In a way, my own story resembles the immigration experience of my family, for they too had to experience a multitude of struggles to get to where they desired to be. Ironically, I am grateful that I grew up in the way that I did, because without finding myself through my own triumphs and tribulations, I do not believe I would be able to accomplish what I have so far in my life.