Breaking Traditions

By Loan Lam, Treehouse Student

I am a woman with an opinion. I believe that all women should be heard, and not put down by society. When I was growing up I often encountered gender stereotypes. People would often say, “Oh she’s a girl, she’s weak.” It was bad enough that I encountered this during school, but also at home. Later I learned that this viewpoint was normal for most women in Asian cultures, because they grew up being taught that for generations. But I wasn’t going to have it.

I come from an abnormal background. I came from a low-income, single parent family, with an immigrant mother who cannot speak English. Most would think that since I had a parent with no educational background, I would be encouraged to get an education so I could create a stable life for myself. Well, that was not true in my case. My mom had a different idea of raising me and my brothers. Growing up, I remember my mom always yelling at me and beating me, saying “You can’t do anything,” or “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you like other kids? You won’t find a good husband.” I didn’t know at that time what my mom was talking about. But I was a reliable child, I took care and practically raised my little brother. I went to work and excelled at school. I came to the realization of what my mom meant when her boyfriend came to live with us.

Loan Lam at her Gradaution

I wasn’t bothered with his presence at first, until the utilities started being shut off one by one. I thought my mom was a bit behind. As time progressed, I discovered that wasn’t the case. My mom spent all of her money on her boyfriend’s bills, even though he had his own money. I became extremely frustrated and eventually, I drew the line. As I confronted my mom, it was as if a bomb went off. I remember yelling, “Why? Why don’t you take care of your own family? Don’t you care?” And all she said was, “He’s my boyfriend, he comes first, you need to understand that’s how it is.” I was completely shocked. Not only was I surprised by her beliefs, but that she expected the same of me.

After the confrontation, I was placed in a nurturing foster home where I could reach my full potential. I was shown kindness and love by my foster mom, who told me when I grew up I would be a strong, independent, and successful woman. It was so important to me that she listened to what I had to say. It helped me feel confident and realize that I had important things to share.

This month, I graduated from high school and in the fall of 2016, I will be attending Bellevue College. Graduating high school and going on to college was an important goal for me, because it gave me a way to prove my family wrong. None of my brothers have graduated high school, or have gone to college. So attending school and getting a 3.5 GPA or higher every year was huge. To me it proves that I had the strength, confidence, and ability, to move beyond my family’s dark past, and abusive behaviors, and become something they never imagined I could be.

After living through the abuse, I realized I don’t want the things that happened in my life to happen to anybody else. I want to build a better support group and environment for youth, where no one is discriminated against because of their gender identity, race, religion, etc. At Bellevue College, I plan to study communication and diplomacy in hopes of helping youth overcome boundaries to, in a sense, “spread their wings and fly well beyond the clouds.”

I have dreams and goals for the future that I am determined to make happen, and I am not afraid to fight for them! This is the 21st Century and things should change. Women like me have the potential to change the world! I am not going to live that way; and neither should others. I know I am capable of much more.

I am, in simple words, an equal.

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About the Author

Loan is one of Treehouse’s inspiring and determined Class of 2016 graduates participating in our Graduation Success program.

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