My parents grew up more than 5,600 miles away from each other, so even being alive and able to write about this feels like a miracle to me. My dad was born and raised in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. My mom, in Fridley, Minnesota, a suburb just outside of Minneapolis. They met each other while taking an obscure business class at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Having parents who grew up in two vastly different cultures has given me a fundamentally global perspective and shaped how I see the world around me. It's given me an appreciation for other cultures, those who differ from me, and those that I share my culture with. It's taught me that I can build a community for myself no matter where I am in the world. And it has given me opportunities to try so many new things, from time-honored Turkish recipes to the opportunity to visit my extended family who still lives in Turkey.
Some things about the current American political climate make having an immigrant parent feel less than ideal.
Especially one from a majority-Muslim and Middle Eastern country. I love my dad and my culture more than words could ever say, but when I tell people that I'm half Turkish and have a parent from there, they sometimes make wrong and negative assumptions. It's no secret that Turkey has had more than its fair share of political turmoil in recent years, but that is not - and should not - be what defines it.
Although growing up in America has given me endless opportunities that I would never have gotten elsewhere. But being here, so far away from where my dad grew up, has always made me feel a large disconnect from my heritage. My dad lived in America for four years before I was born, and he eagerly assimilated into American culture. He never taught me Turkish or Kabardian, his two native languages, and he no longer practices most Muslim customs or traditions. Most of the things he did growing up were not passed down to me.
But on a lighter note, having a parent from a country and culture so completely different from the one I grew up in has also shown me the power of having a strong community. My dad moved to America in 1995 and although most of his family still lives back in Turkey, he has built up a community of friends filled with other Turkish immigrants. They celebrate holidays and traditions from Turkey together and are always willing to lend each other a helping hand, whether that be babysitting each other's kids, or coming together to help someone move. My dad and his Turkish friends are as close as brothers, I consider them my uncles. They have truly shown me that you can choose your own family.
Although I've lived most of my life at a slight distance from my cultural heritage, it's still something that I am extremely proud of, and it has helped shape me into the woman I am today.