What Was Your Life Like Before Coming To The United States?
I’m Ahmad Yakzan, and I’m originally from Lebanon. I have Lebanese citizenship, but I’ve been an immigrant all of my life. I was born in Saudi Arabia from Lebanese parents, and when I was about six years old, my dad wanted us to get a better education, so he sent us to Lebanon. Between the ages of six and 12, I lived through that Lebanese Civil War, which was ongoing from 1975 until about 1992. It wasn’t until 1998 that I left the country.
I had a rough childhood. Not only did I move around a lot, but my school was between the Christian and the Muslim part of Beirut. Usually, a window seat for the view was in high demand, but in my school, it was the opposite, since the glass would shatter with each bomb that was dropped. Since age 15, it was my dream to move to the United State and become an attorney. My desire to become an attorney was sparked when a friend of mine, who was part of one of the first recycling clubs in Lebanon, told me I would make a great international attorney, which would not only allow me to make money, but help people. I started asking myself, why not become an attorney?
Fortunately, my dad had a friend who lived in the US and helped me apply to colleges while I was still in Lebanon. At age 17, on the day of my high school graduation, I received my acceptance letter and Form I-20, which made me eligible for nonimmigrant student status. I remember that day as if it was yesterday. After most people had left, my mom handed me the packet with those documents, hugged me in the middle of the basketball court, and just started crying. Everyone said, “You need to stop crying so your son won’t start crying.”
After that, I took a vacation for about five months while waiting for everything to go through. At the time, Lebanon didn’t have a consulate, so we had to go to Damascus to get the visa. The first time I went, I wasn’t 18 years old, so they told me I needed to come back with my parents, and they scheduled me to do so on October 5th, 1998. When I finally got the visa, I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Having prayed for this day, my grandma began crying and just hugged me. A month later, I was in the US. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t moved so quickly, because I didn’t get to see my family for over 17 years. I wish I’d had more time with them.
What Does The American Dream Mean To You?
Everyone has their own idea of the American dream, so I never try to define it for them; one person’s American dream might be to run a clinic, and another person’s American dream might be to run a landscaping company. My American dream is to be the best immigration attorney I possibly can be, and to run a successful practice in order to help people, and not worry about living paycheck to paycheck.
Being financially secure is probably one of the most sought-after aspects of the American dream, since many of us have come to the United States from war-torn countries. Having the ability to own your own home is another common part of the American dream. After renting for a long time, I finally bought my first house on December 1st of this year. Another aspect of the American dream is security in the sense of safety. When I was in Lebanon, I had to worry about being killed by a bomb, and while I know that happens in the US too, it doesn’t happen as often.
I don’t think there is one definition for “the American dream,” because the meaning of it can evolve. When I came to the US, my dream was to become an attorney, and then it was to get my work visa and green card, after which it became running my own firm, and with the help of Speakeasy, expanding my firm. Now, my dream is to keep my house and have a family. The American dream can mean many different things to different people, but it almost always means security.
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