A Letter From an Immigrant

The Story of An Immigrant

A story of an immigrant brought to you by an immigrant.

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I was born in the year 2000 in a Muslim household to a young, single mother not much older than I am now in a South Asian country known as Bangladesh. Like most normal kids, I led a comfortable life in the four room apartment that we had with my mom working as a flight attendant and my aunt to watch over me in the absence of my biological father who blamed all of his troubles on substance abuse. It was a comfortable and sheltered life inside the apartment, but once I stepped my foot outside, it was bustling with street vendors and poor families with children who were begging on the streets for the same food that I used to hate eating because "it tastes funny." None of this is out of the ordinary though in a country as overpopulated and stricken with poverty as the one that I grew up in. However, I had my own sets of challenges that I was faced with.

In 2008, my mom got remarried to my now step-dad who - from as far as I can tell - could pass for my biological father. And with a dad, I luckily also got two step-brothers. I was never used to being the middle kid- considering all I ever knew for more than half of my life was how to have everything to myself as the only child (my mom still did the best that she could to spoil me). This same year, I also moved to Michigan. With my fresh-off-the-boat ensemble, I was your typical foreign kid ready to take on the world of opportunities that the U.S. was so well-known for. And just like that, I realized so early on that there would be absolutely no way that I could ever fit in. I had the whole trifecta: a heavy-accented English, absolutely no friends, and a self-esteem that was non-existent. For an 8 year-old girl, I couldn't begin to explain to you how I felt when I would walk in a room full of beautiful, light-skinned people. I stuck out like a sore thumb. This only took a turn for the worse when I first started going to school. My mom has always been the type of foreign mom to say "stick to your roots, because that and me are all you have", and that also meant continuing the coconut hair oil regimen we had. Added bonus feature for those who don't know what this is: it's basically just hot coconut oil slathered in hair and kept almost for an entire day or overnight to help your hair feel smoother and shinier. So in essence, I was sent to my first day at school in America looking like a wet dog and likewise, I got a lot of shit for it. Not only that, but I was also called out to read out loud in front of the class. I did it like a champ, even though you could hear occasional snickers at the way I would pronounce some words which are harmless now, but blows back then to my self-esteem.

It was hard and a few grueling years of reading through the Harry Potter series to help me learn to read faster along with the life-saving discovery of 50 Cent's song "Put it Down on Me" to help me speak English faster without stuttering. Eventually, not only did I know the entire rap (still do), but I was also getting the confidence to feel a lot better about myself and to not dread every day of school. Little did I know that a couple years from that time, I would be reading at a higher level than I was supposed to at that age and taking college level English courses. Now, even though it was years back when I was a lot younger, things like this sometimes can never be easy to overcome- especially for immigrant children. In middle school I was called a terrorist for wearing the hijab during the month of Ramadan and I remember coming home crying to my mom confused as to why I even had to wear it if I was going to be called names. However, there were people who I grew close with, who made me want to feel that it was okay to be a little different and not dwell on things. That it was okay if not everyone liked me and that I couldn't always be a perfectionist or please everyone.

If you've made it this far, then honestly kudos to you and I guess, the point that I'm trying to get at is that not all of our stories are the same. In a lot of cases, I was and still am lucky, but not everyone is. Moving here while seeing a lot of things that no kid should ever have to see in their lifetime, I have realized that like the bad, there is a lot of good in the world too.

You just have to pick who you want to be and which side to be on.

I have personally come very far. For being someone who would have trouble speaking English to now people being surprised when I tell them this story in person that I even had an accent (I miss it sometimes). Heck, I'm surprised that for being a brown girl who was filled with so many insecurities about her looks that I am now that same girl in a sorority with other beautiful girls both inside and out who are now my best friends.

Just know that if you find yourself in the same spot as I was back then, be kind to yourself, know that you can do it, and surround yourself with the best people you can find. If you don't find yourself in the same shoes, be the best person to those who do need it.

Until next time,

Salsa.

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When You Make A Girl An Aunt, You Change Her World In All The Best Ways

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the happiest girl in the world.

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My brother and his wife recently blessed our family with the sweetest bundle of joy on planet earth. OK, I may be a little bias but I believe it to be completely true. I have never been baby crazy, but this sweet-cheeked angel is the only exception. I am at an age where I do not want children yet, but being able to love on my nephew like he is my own is so satisfying.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her a very protective person.

From making sure the car seat is strapped in properly before every trip, to watching baby boy breathe while he sleeps, you'll never meet someone, besides mommy and daddy of course, who is more concerned with the safety of that little person than me.

When you make a girl an aunt, you give her a miniature best friend.

There is something about an aunt that is so fun. An aunt is a person you go to when you think you're in trouble or when you want something mom and dad said you couldn't have. An aunt is someone who takes you to get ice cream and play in the park to cool down after having a temper tantrum. I can't wait to be the one he runs to.

When you make a girl an aunt, she gets to skip on the difficulty of disciplining.

Being an aunt means you get to be fun. Not to say I wouldn't correct my nephew if he were behaving poorly, but for the most part, I get to giggle and play and leave the hard stuff for my brother.

When you make a girl an aunt, you give her the best listening ears.

As of right now I only listen to the sweet coos and hungry cries but I am fully prepared to listen to all the problems in his life in the future.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the best advice giver.

By the time my nephew needs advice, hopefully, I will have all of my life lessons perfected into relatable stories.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her a number-one fan

Anything you do in life sweet boy, I will be cheering you on. I already know you are going to do great things.

When you make a girl an aunt, she learns what true love is.

The love I have for my nephew is so pure. Its the love that is just there. I don't have to choose to show love every day, I don't have to forgive, I don't have to worry if it is reciprocated, it is just there.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the happiest person in the world.

I cannot wait to watch my precious nephew grow into the amazing person that I know he is going to be.

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Summer = Rest?

Sometimes it feels as if we need a vacation... from our vacation.

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Ah summer: Popsicles and sun burns, mixed with fresh-squeezed lemonade that local kids are pandering to make enough money for Roman candles and Black Cats. The crack of the bat can be heard among the simmering charcoal grills and Troy-bilts humming through the ever-lasting sun. School is out and children are wild. It's a paradise.

Or is it?

But after countless sports camps and tournaments, other camps, vacations, school (?) events, traveling teams, VBS, summer seems to have been sucked fun-free.

Maybe it's Hollywood and Harper Lee's fault for giving us this utopian view of what summer should look and feel like (I'm looking at you Sandlot). But how can we really rest this summer? Because everyone needs some actual rest, even adults.

First thing is do NOT pack your summer full. Say no to some things. Coaches and Families can expect too much and it's okay to say no to them. You have to. There is no time for kids to be kids anymore.

Work can take a backseat. Vacations need to be taken. Families need to reconnect.

And for all my super-scheduled people out there, please PLEASE don't schedule out your vacation. Just enjoy it.

Another bit of advice would be to put away the technology and spend some time outside. When was the last time you tried to catch lightning bugs? Or went for a swim? Or listened to birds on your front porch?

I may sound like I have an old soul, but I really feel like we have lost this connection to the outside world. Summer is all about getting a farmer's tan and getting stung once or twice. I can guarantee you that's some of the best therapy in the world.

Maybe this sounds all over the place. Maybe this sounds like me ranting. And it probably is.

But I'm telling you that this stuff matters. Don't let summer whiz by and you arrive in August more drained that you were in May. Enjoy this time with family and friends.

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