Paul C. Kelly Campos has a Perspective on the emotional and psychological difficulties of being the first to move out of an immigrant family household. And the importance of having support to get you through it. This Perspective originally aired on May 9, 2022.
I am the first of my family born in the U.S., the first to graduate from college, and now the first to be living on their own in this country.
But when I told my parents — my father from Galway, Ireland and my mother from Managua, Nicaragua — that I was planning to relocate here they said and did everything they could do to dissuade me. It was hard to feel that this decision, which I spent the last few years gradually working towards, was something they were actually averse to.
“We thought you’d stay until you got married?”, “You are not mature enough,” “You’ll kill your grandmother if you do this,” “No one will ever love you like your family does,” are some of the things they told me. So during this already emotional transition I was depressed in a way I had not been in over a year. But I had my support system: my therapist, friends, and my partner.
And thanks to therapy in particular, I’ve been able to understand that my family was dealing with their emotions and unresolved issues from their respective homelands. My mother and grandmother were traumatized by war and displacement, and my father suffers from culturally ingrained depression.
I could not blame them, in other words.
But even now, after I have already moved out, their discouragement comes to me in waves. I doubt myself, my capabilities, my decisions. It stirs me to wonder if the pain they ostentatiously feel is my fault and my responsibility. But in those moments I clasp onto the little things I have now: my chair, my desk, my own bed — things I never had before.
Still, I speak to myself in Spanish while walking around my neighborhood. I find myself cooking shepherd's pie in the evening for dinner….and gallo pinto, queso frito, and maduros for breakfast to fill this new space with the language, accents, and tastes of home.
Paul C. Kelly Campos is 23 years old and lives in the Bay Area. He is currently an intern for KQED’s Forum program.