- Posted March 2, 2015 by
Pittsford, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The American Dream
“Both of my mother’s parents were such hard workers. Getting up early, running the restaurant. They knew if you could work hard, you could make a good living in this country,” said the Pittsford, New York, resident.
“The American Dream is real. It's not an overnight thing, and that it takes hard work. Every time I think I'm having a tough day, my parents’ struggles put it all in perspective -- it's not that bad, suck it up and go.”
- zdan, CNN iReport producer
The Bedtime ritual at our house usually included "Dad tell me a story". As a first generation American, the stories I shared featured who we are, where we came from, and were filled with lessons that my family passed on to me. As I told the stories, it became very clear to me how my family's journey positively impacted my life.
First, a little background on my family's story. Like many immigrants, my parents and grandparents came to America from Macedonia with little more than the clothes on their back . . . and a belief that they could accomplish anything with determination and hard work. My Grandfather left his homeland to live that dream and to earn enough money to bring the rest of his family to America. Unfortunately, World War II got in the way and it took 12 long years before my grandfather saw his daughter for the first time.
Meanwhile, my father dreamt of coming to the US to see the great country that was described to him in stories told by his grandfather (whom I am named after). Fatherless since the age of 7, my father's journey to America took him on a dash across the border and through 3 years in a refugee camp before landing in NYC.
The American Dream
In his 1931 book Epic of America, James Truslow Adams wrote that,
“[t]he American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…(where each man and woman) shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
The American Dream inspired my family to leave everything behind in hope of a better life in the new world. For my family, the dream came true: My grandfather started shining shoes on a street corner, became a short order cook, opened a small hot dog stand, and eventually opened his own restaurant that could have been the model for Arnold's on Happy Days. My mother came to the US at the age of 12 without knowing a word of English, but she ultimately became one of the few women executives in the male dominated insurance industry. My father started sweeping floors at a bread factory, became an electrician, and started his own electrical contracting business.
Living the American Dream was not easy for my family and it was not an overnight rags to riches story. I started writing down these stories to share lessons that have influenced and inspired me. Like my father always used to say, "America is a great country, you can't do this s*#t in the Soviet Union". He was right.
I have written a number of blog posts about my family and what it means to be a first generation American. You can read some of them here:
My grandfather instilled a strong work ethic in all of us. The story of how he built a great business is told in Leadership Stories: The Value of Hard Work http://wp.me/p2aV8N-cq
My grandmother was often underestimated because of her accent, but she taught us all an important lesson about not being too quick to judge people in Leadership Stories: Things are not always what they seem http://wp.me/p2aV8N-du
My father's journey to America was long and tough. His story of perseverance is shared in Leadership Stories: Refuse to be Discouraged http://wp.me/p2aV8N-eI
My family's village in Macedonia is known for its great storytellers. Nothing like a good story to teach a life lesson and I share one of my father's best in Leadership Stories: The Importance of Storytelling http://wp.me/p2aV8N-ft