I told my parents I was going to be a doctor and then a lawyer, but I never believed it and never tried.
When I was growing up, Forest Park was full of integrated families. It was amazing. One my best friends was Vietnamese. Another one was half-Mexican, half-black. Another one was from Colombia. Another one was born in the U.S., but his mom was from Germany and spoke with a German accent. So we all had multiple identities.
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, the color of my skin and my rather peculiar background as an Ethiopian immigrant delineated the border of my life and friendships. I learned quickly how to stand alone.
History does influence our lives - every moment. We never sort of live our lives in a linear fashion. We always have these memories and these images from our past that sometimes we're not even aware of, and they sort of shape who we are.
My parents never referenced Ethiopia that much, largely because of the circumstances under which we left. We left during a time of political upheaval, and there was a lot of loss that came with that, so my parents were reluctant to talk about those things. So I had, by and large, an American childhood.