|No, I'm Iranian
And I am thankful for opportunities America has given me
By Arezou Raeisghasem
February 7, 2002
That's a pretty name, where are you from? "I'm Iranian." Oh really?
You don't have an accent. "Yea, well I've been here since I was three-years
old." Oh, then you're practically American. "No, I'm Iranian."
To Iranians, I'm not Iranian enough. To the Americans, I'm not American enough. I
have always felt like an alien in both groups. I'm sandwiched in between two worlds
trying to fit into both, but finding myself alone, without either. I don't think
I'm the only young Iranian that faces this dilemma each day.
Before, I believed I would have to just pick on or the other, and I picked American.
I shunned all things Iranian, and dived into the only world I have ever known. But
there was an emptiness inside me that could not be filled. I could not go to school
and be one person and then go home, have my tea with "ghand" and speak
Farsi. It just didn't feel right.
I think the turning point for me was when I went to Iran last summer. I saw the rich
culture from which I come, and the many traditions and everyday way of life that
I find fascinating became more real to me. I realized that I love Iran, and that
I love being Iranian, and I can be proud of the person I am, whatever category that
person falls into. But it does not necessarily mean that I have to reject the many
privileges and freedoms that I have as an American citizen. It doesn't diminish the
fact that I am thankful everyday for the opportunities that it has given me in my
life. In fact, being Iranian makes me appreciate them more.
As I was spending time with my cousin Niaz in Iran, I would often ask God, "What
made me so lucky? Why was I given a life of freedom and possibility and she wasn't?
What if I was still living in Iran?" I truly know that if I had not come out
of Iran, I would not be the person I am today. I would not know the world as I do,
and I would not be as open-minded as I am. I also realized that although I grew up
in America, my values and beliefs are profoundly shaped by my Iranian heritage.
When I go to Iranian clubs and see the young Iranian girls and boys dancing and enjoying
themselves, I think, I hope, they realize how lucky they are. I hope they realize
that if they were in Iran, they would not be able to go out to a club and dance with
their friends, wearing their little mini-skirts, no matter how innocent their actions
or intentions are.
When I am really stressed out over and exam or final
paper for a class, I try to remember to thank God that I have the opportunity for
this stress. I remind myself that I should be appreciative that I am not stuck behind
difficult tests and not able to get into a university. Or, that I don't have to give
up on university because the only school I was accepted to is in a town other than
where my parents live, and as a women I could not live alone because "dorost
As a result of these revelations, I have come to learn to be thankful for my differences
within each group. No, I am not American, and yes, I love being in America because
that is the only life I know and I don't have to feel guilty about that, and that
doesn't make me any less Iranian. However, since I have been given this opportunity,
I believe that I have an obligation to make the best out of my life.
I have an obligation to my parents who risked so much and gave so much of themselves
to bring our family here; I can not imagine leaving everything I have ever know,
all the people I love, to go to a foreign land and into the unknown. I also owe it
to my cousins because they will never have the infinite possibilities that I have, and I owe it to myself
because I have been given a life of privilege.
I am hopeful that us young Iranians all over the world can know that we don't have
to choose between the cultures we were brought up with and the Iranian culture that
is within us. We don't have to shun either, because we are both.
We can take the good from each one, and be a better, more knowledgeable person because
of it. Most of all I pray that one day there will be a free Iran, so that my children
and their children will know the rich beauty of our culture, without the oppression
of its government.