Thursday Born

The everyday life of a psychiatry resident (who was born on a Thursday).

Archive for February 8th, 2010

The guilt of having immigrant parents.

leave a comment »

There are more Ghanaian doctors in New York City than in the entire country of Ghana. I learned this while back home in Ghana for my two weeks of Christmas break.

“Are you planning on moving back?”

“Well, I’m stuck in the US for at least seven or eight more years. After that, we’ll see.”

I’ve had that exchange many times, and I have to confess that’s not the most honest response. Stuck in the US? No, I’m not stuck here. I’m quite happy in the US. I was born here, lived here till I was 4 and came back nearly every summer until I started boarding school in New England at 14. Been back to Ghana at least once a year, often twice, since then. I am quite happy shuttling back and forth between these two countries, both of which I am a citizen.

My parents primarily live in Ghana, visiting the US at least two or three times a year. Of my three older brothers, two are currently in the US, one in Ghana and moving back with his new family soon (maybe?). In the long term, I can see him, and maybe one other (but he’s a bit of a wild card in general), moving back.

I feel guilty though. I know I’m lucky, incredibly lucky, to be in my position. I do not come from an extensively well off and well educated family. It is easy to look at my immediate family – myself, my brothers, my parents – and to get a very skewed image of where I come from. I am very much the child of hard working immigrants, acutely aware that my privileged upbringing is the direct result of my parents’ effort and determination.

But I could ignore it. I could ignore that my parents had six and seven siblings, that I have fifty-something cousins. I could stay in the US, pretend that I’m just another American, not an African and an American.

Except I can’t.  At the same time, I don’t know what to do. I’m not a politician at heart, and I’m not sure I’m an activist either. Every year I understand a little bit more my mother’s yearning for a quieter life, because life in Ghana is anything but quiet and peaceful when you’re trying to do good things in a third world country, even in a politically peaceful climate.

I don’t know if I’ll move back or not someday, but I don’t think I will. I admit, I don’t really want to. It’s not that I love the US more than Ghana, but life is simpler in the US. There’s more options, and it’s easier to be just another person.

Knowing that about myself though, I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do from here, because it is possible to have an impact without physically living there. And I don’t want to fall into the trap of feeling like the good my parents and my brothers are doing absolves me of having to do anything myself.

I’m open to suggestions. =)

Written by Aba

February 8, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: