I went in this morning for my annual physical exam. I’m fortunate, in that I really click with my doctor. She is a few years out of medical school and is very up to speed on the latest technologies.
We also share an immigrant background. Her family left Iran for the U.S. just before the 1979 Revolution, and moved back and forth. Living in the U.S. as Iranians during the hostage crisis was very difficult, but living in Iran, as women’s rights were completely taken away, was worse. In the end, her mother by herself took three children and settled in Utah.
I was really impressed with her family’s story. I asked, “Do you think immigrants are more driven?” She said she thought so. The rest of her relatives are in Iran and were unwilling to pick up and move, but her mother had the desire to do so.
I told her my views, that the U.S. is a unique country because over centuries it has attracted people willing to embrace change. Call them “driven,” “neurotic,” “anxious,” or “entrepreneurial,” but it’s a pretty interesting concept, that we have this genetic pool and cultural milieu focused on work.
I write about this because my alma mater’s graduation was yesterday. The seniors move out of their dorms today and enter a new chapter in their lives. When I graduated from college, some of my friends took time off or traveled.
I didn’t. I quickly started my NYC Wall St. job, as I didn’t have the funds to backpack around Europe. In fact, I had to borrow money from my parents to pay for a few suits and put money down for an apartment lease.
Even now, even though I do have money, I find it difficult to spend it. I’ve heard other immigrants say this. A friend of mine is a VC and her firm was a major investor in Facebook. She has financially absolutely crushed it, but she too has this view that you spend just a small percentage of what you have. She is an immigrant.
And, frankly, I have a hard time when I see family spend money willy-nilly and are mortgaging their futures. Or, when they don’t push themselves and instead optimize leisure over work.
I know that’s very judgmental, and I know have to work on it. You see, my parents had a rough time growing up in post-war Indonesia. To this day, my father spends very little on himself. My mother was a war refugee (more about her here and here). In an instant, her family lost everything and was evicted as the battle lines grew near. She, her parents and six siblings had to flee. They ended up living in a detached garage, with a single light bulb.
So I grew up with her stories. I’m a chronic saver, and I have always worked really hard. I still dream of taking a long trip to Europe one day. That’s both a major opportunity and mental hurdle for me: splurging on a long trip.
I’m still “working” on it, though.