My father came to the U.S. in 1997 as a clueless, rebellious 30-year old with no idea what he was going to do with his life. His immigration story is unique in that he didn't come to America for better opportunities or to improve his future. Instead, he came to grow up and learn what it meant to be an adult. He had a good life back in China, surrounded by our huge extended family with a stable job as a high school teacher, occasionally traveling to the biggest cities in the nation. My grandmother thought that meant he wasn't grounded since he had no plans to start a family or to settle down into a job that he would do for the rest of his life. She decided to send him off to New York to get a taste of independence and responsibility. These photos were taken the first month he arrived; they show his youthful spirit as he posed in a McDonalds, next to a stranger's motorbike, and in front of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Twenty years later, I can safely say that my grandmother's wishes were fulfilled. My father definitely learned of the difficulties in life as he struggled between low-paying jobs until he settled on being a driver. He was able to combine his love of geography and maps with his career as he navigated the tri-state area, eventually memorizing every nook and cranny to make a home out of a foreign place. Two decades later, his legacy carries on through me and my sister as first-generation Americans, ready to take a step forward and pave a future of our own.
– Emily Lin