PG Podcast - Episode 39 - Tergel returns to talk about immigrant childhood experiences
July 2018 (perspective of an assistant professor)
I first met Tergel back when I was a professor at the University of Rochester. She was a studio art and computer science major who excelled in many of our courses and also did research in our human-computer interaction lab. This is actually her second time on the podcast (my first repeat one-on-one guest!). She was previously on PG Podcast - Episode 32 - Tergel on building mindful relationships with technology.
This in-person PG Podcast (the first one recorded with my Canon 80D SLR camera!) was inspired by an email she sent me out of the blue last month after reading my first book, On the Move, about my immigrant childhood experiences (see below for the email's contents). It turns out that our childhoods share some striking similarities, and we both want to find ways to communicate those experiences to a wider audience.
This is the email that Tergel sent to me on July 17, 2018, pasted here with her permission:
Hello. I just read your book, On the Move on an airplane ride and I wanted to reach out and thank you for sharing your story and making it accessible for free on your website. I had downloaded it a few years ago and put it on my iPad and when my flight from Beijing to SFO got delayed, with no WiFi, I found the PDF in my iBooks and read it through in one sitting.
I think it’s quite fitting that I read this book as I headed from the East to the West, as that is our shared origin story. I also found myself in tears multiple times during the book because our stories are so uncannily similar and it made me feel so much less alone to hear you went through similar experiences.
I too was raised by extended family while my parents were abroad. I too "met my mom and dad" as a child in a foreign country - not understanding who they really were.
What really struck me also was your childhood desire to be American, Caucasian and normal like your peers in Louisiana with stay at home moms and fancy furniture and prayers before dinner. I remember hating my family for being immigrants and wishing that I could just wake up white and normal. Coincidently, my mother was also the breadwinner in my family, working long hours, very different than my friends mothers. I always felt very alone in my desire to ditch my heritage and was ashamed that I felt that way as a child. But hearing that you went through the same experience helps me forgive myself for feeling that way. It seems so understandable hearing your account of it, deeply pitiful actually, but until I could hear a story like my own from a third party perspective, it was hard to let go.
Another moment of connection for me was when you moved to NYC and had that paranoia where you were fearful of getting attacked and planned your secret escape plan, making yourself as small a target as possible. I spent my entire childhood doing this also, and it took me years to learn to sit up straight and stand tall and take up space as an adult.
Okay, I guess my email is not that long. But it has always been my desire to write out my memories of my life "on the move" but it’s been so hard to find the time and I’m very impressed that amidst your schoolwork, you had a chance to get it done and so well written too.
Thank you again for sharing your story! Lets catch up soon!