My Parents Helped Me Realize My American Dream


by Tamika Burgess

Image courtesy of Portibal /

The United States, it’s the place where you can live the American Dream. But what that dream actually consists of is different for everyone. For people that live in other countries the dream represents opportunity, and having said opportunity is exactly why my Parents decided to move here.

They were born and raised in Panamá and came to the U.S. in their early twenties to start a new life. For my Parents, leaving Panamá meant no longer living under a dictatorship (which later took a turn for the worst when Manuel Noriega was in power). It meant starting over, having better jobs, and creating a better life for their future children.

When my Parents moved here they came with a strong determination to make it. While growing up in Panamá they were taught a standard formula of how to be successful in life. That formula consisted of going to school, getting a job with benefits, staying loyal to that job, and then retiring. My Parents followed that formula when they moved to the U.S. and it worked for them. My Mother worked at a bank for over 20 years. My Father retired from not one but two jobs, working at each for over 15 years.

Since they both found professional success in the choices they made, my Parents expected my Brother and I to follow suit so we too could be successful. When I was growing up my Parents stressed the importance of education and made it clear that they expected my Brother and me to attend college. As they advised I obtained my BA and MA degree. I got a job at an advertising agency and worked my way up to supervisor. I met my Parent’s expectations and then some. But I was not happy.

At some point I realized I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my life. After six years of working in the advertising industry I came to the realization that I wanted to be a writer. It was my passion and I wanted to pursue it. When I made the decision to think of the box and follow my dreams, my Parents were more than supportive. They never questioned me when I decided to quit my secure well-paying job. I’m sure at times they may not have understood certain choices I was making, but not once did they say anything to deter me from following my dreams.

Had my Parents never come to the U.S. I highly doubt they would have been able to encourage my passion to write or my Brother’s dream of being a pilot. By moving to the U.S. they got to see how people were able to make a living by doing things they were passionate about. Living in this country changed my Parent’s way of thinking. They were released to see all kinds of possibilities.

At this point in time I have realized the American Dream has come full circle within my family. My Parent’s resolve for a change feed my desire to strive for more in my own life. Their decision to step out of their comfort zone and move to a new country took courage. And I look at that as inspiration and motivation. Just as they wanted better, I want better.

I am thankful for all the sacrifices they have made in their lives so my life can be what it is today. I am glad they lead and taught me by their examples. Most importantly I am grateful they are willing to look beyond their planned expectations of me and are willfully supporting all the choices I make.

Though our definitions of it may not be the same, my Parents are living their American Dream. And I am living my own. Having a sense of fulfillment is what I am striving towards. Following my heart and working to reach my own definition of success is most important… and that is my American Dream.

Tamika Burgess is a freelance writer and a blogger. Currently living in Brooklyn, NY, Tamika was born and raised in Southern California. As a freelance writer, Tamika’s work has been featured on various sites, including The Well Versed and 212Access. Her work is also featured on her blog, The Essence of Me.