What would my life be like if I was born as an American citizen to American parents to an American household in an all-American neighborhood? Would I still make my parents proud? Would I have the same experiences, ambitions, morals? Would I continue to wake up in the morning under the “used light of somebodies spent life?” Would I be the same? Li-Young Lee delves into the issues of being an immigrant and though lightly touching upon it, leaves an imprint of his own experiences in his poem, “Furious Visions,” so that every immigrant can recognize them and relate to them.
Being born in another country and leaving your life behind is no walk in the park—rather a walk through a park that’s been sectioned off to host a luxurious private event. The search for a better life doesn’t stop at the shores of the land, or magically turn to roses and daisies where birds sing all your troubles away after stepping off that airplane or crossing that border—no actually, the struggle never stops, especially when you are the child of the immigrant. I was born in Poland, and although I came here at an age that allowed me to assimilate rather quickly, I still feel the pressures and restrictions that come without being a citizen, or even a resident. Lee writes that “the birds have stripped my various names of meaning entire,” leaving him feeling empty and without a purpose. Though his angle may have been coming towards his father’s incarceration, I believe that may even be applied to the fact that being a foreign country leaves everyone confused and even on the brink of an identity crises. Is what I’m doing right for me? Will my parents be proud of the decisions I am making? Was their sacrifice truly worth it? I constantly wake up asking myself these questions feeling as if everything that I am could have been completely different, almost stripping me of everything I believe in, even leaving me “stripped [of] my various names.”
I feel that even his father’s incarceration could be an extended metaphor towards my own life. Though I live here in Chicago, in a place where I have significantly much more opportunity, I occasionally feel trapped—trapped by the immigration laws, trapped by the ideals of society, even trapped by my own reservations of how my life should or should not look like. It feels like I’m being suffocated by something that’s supposedly there to better me, as an imprisonment is set to better society. And there is nothing more that Lee wants than to make sense of his situation and be content with the outcome as so do I, except for my own experiences there is no clear villain but an idea that may or may not have a positive outcome.
My ultimate goal in life is to never wake up feeling like I am under the “used light of somebodies spent life,” but wake up feeling accomplished and in control. My life shouldn’t be influenced by my parents or societal expectations, but solely my own decisions. I am an immigrant, and life has been hard, but I will not let that hinder my future and imprison me from my accomplishments. (Magdalena Rybnik/ City of Stories Student)