A Mile in Our Shoes, Part 4

By Dana Abdulhay

Sreyneang                                                                                               

 

sraeyang
Photo by Sreyneang.

What are the most significant factors that contributed to where you are today as a person?

 

I grew with separated parents, they were actually separated before I was born. My mom moved to the U.S. and I lived away from her in Cambodia. I wasn’t sure who I am. I was a reckless child. When I got to the U.S., I was 13 years old. I saw my mom, how is she working hard and raising a family, so I had to change my attitude and become more responsible.

What kind of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than yours?

I learned friendship is really [more] important than anything. I guess it doesn’t matter what background you’re from; friendship gets us closer together, it’s more about person to person than different backgrounds.

Have you ever faced difficult challenges that have prevented you from being who you are?

Yes, a lot — even now, in fact. I want to talk, I want to give my opinion, but because of my English language barrier is preventing me from being how I want to be. It makes me feel like I’m stuck in the corner just listening instead of talking. Even though sometimes I would have my own ideas, but I won’t share it out loud because I don’t know how to say my thoughts correctly, or else I have to keep explaining to the listener what I mean.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

My grandparents, in the first place. I grew up in their house since 15 years old. My mom was a single mother at the time — she’s a very independent person, she wanted to built a whole new life and future for her and her family. My grandparents were the ones who took care of me and supported me emotionally and were there wherever I needed them. My mom was the one who supported me financially. Even moving here and after many years, I still feel attached to my grandparents even if they’re away from me.

What are you most afraid of right now?

For not achieving my dream. I want to do it for them and for me, they cheer me up and encourage me but I’m scared for not achieving that. But anyway, I’ll try as hard as I can no matter what is happening.

What’s the happiest moment of your life? Saddest?

The happiest moment of my life is when I was 13 and I heard back from the USCIS that I can finally come here and reunite with my mom after eight years of being apart and after all of her tries to bring me back to her.

The saddest is when my mom had to leave me when I was five. I remember that I was crying but she did not. I asked her where is she going; she said that she’s going somewhere, but I didn’t understand, but I knew that it’s somewhere far away from me. And when I moved to here and had to leave my grandparents, and couldn’t have them be with me anymore in here.



Abigail

abigail
Photo by Abigail.

What are the most significant factors that contributed to where you are today as a person?

Being raised by a single mother; that made me mature faster and changed my whole perspective on life.

What kind of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than yours?

I played basketball for the women’s team for nine years, which enabled me to know a lot of women whose backgrounds are different, financially or their ethnic background. I can understand their situation. And how all these different backgrounds came to do the same thing, playing the same sport — that helps to learn all the different things about people.

Have you ever faced difficult challenges that have prevented you from being who you are?

How my mom struggled financially, and how it was hard for her to fulfill all my needs financially, sometimes, for my school. That wasn’t bad, but it helped me to make most of it with what I have.

Have you ever witnessed prejudice? And whom is the prejudice aimed towards? Have you been a victim of prejudice?

[…] I’ve been a victim of it, especially as a girl playing sports in a male-dominated sport. Girls [are] looked on as unathletic. And how we don’t have a large audience that would come and watch us play and how everything with the men’s team is way better. And how some fans would say, “Wow, for a girl you’re doing good!”
Also I have been a victim […] because of my race. I am a Dominican, but everybody thinks that I’m a Mexican, and they would assume that I wasn’t raised here and not a citizen. But I’ve never been born or raised in my homeland; I’m even more familiar with the culture here, more than my own.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

My mom, she’s always been there for me. She pushed me to play basketball, and she is a great role model, how she faces many obstacles but still did not give up.

What are you most afraid of right now?

Figuring out what I want to do after getting out of school — I’m still hopping around different majors, I’m definitely scared because nowadays everything is money driven.

What’s the happiest moment of your life? Saddest?

Reconnecting with my sibling that I haven’t seen for 13 years. I’ve never had a sister, it was always me and my mom, so her moving with us was a great addition to the family. The saddest is when we separated the way we were, and having to move out from friends and family to a whole new different town.

From your own experience, what is the advice that you would give to someone who’s going through the same thing?

I know that the whole “never give up” thing is used a lot, but for me this is what got me through a lot of things. Thinking about the positive and how this situation is not going to completely ruin your life or the future you want, it helps if you just focus on how to make the situation better in a way.

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