Stuck Between Two Worlds: Growing Up First Generation American with Laylee Emadi and Danait Berhe-Gabre

When your family immigrates from another country, growing up as a first generation American has it’s hurdles. To open the doors on this important conversation, I invited two dear friends of mine, Laylee Emadi and Danait Berhe-Gabre to join me in sharing their experiences. From the struggles we felt in school, to finding our place between cultures, and even into relationships in adulthood, Laylee and Danait highlight how even though we all have different backgrounds, there is something about being a first generation American that bonds us.

This is Season 1 Episode 4 of Here’s the Tea with Akua

Here’s the Tea with Akua is a safe space to learn about hot topics, gain a new perspective and have a greater understanding of the people around us. You’ll hear amazing stories of everyday people like you and me. They’ll be spilling the tea and giving us an honest look into their lives. As we discuss topics such as race, relationships, mental health, and how to just figure out the thing called life, we’d love to have you subscribe on Apple PodcastSpotify, or your favorite podcast player!

Meet Laylee:

Laylee is an educator, podcast host, and photographer with a heart for serving clients and fellow creatives. She believes in serving the creative industry with heartfelt encouragement, honest advice, and a shared pursuit of the ever-elusive “balance.” As a former high school teacher, Laylee has a heart for educating others. Her goal is to help you feel confident in your ability to make a difference, create impact, and to build a life doing what you love.

Meet Danait:

Danait is the founder and lead strategist of The Asmara Agency. TAA is an award-winning agency that helps female-founded companies craft compelling business, brand, and messaging strategies that position them for massive success and impact. When she’s not designing or nerding out over data, Danait is cuddling with her pup Lula, exploring the city of Buffalo with her husband,  and trying to find the perfect pizza. 

 

Important Parts of the Conversation:

Get to Know Danait (1:50)

Get to Know Laylee (2:55)

Growing Up in the States (4:02)

Laylee’s Experience Growing Up in the States(4:26)

Akua’s Experience Growing Up in the States (6:54)

Navigating Blending Cultures (10:45)

Akua’s Shame in Culture Growing Up (17:46)

Let’s Talk About Names (22:07)

Dating for Danait (26:44)

Merging Cultures in Marriage (30:56)

Laylee How Being First Generation Impacted My Business (34:15)

Danait How First Generation Impacted My Business (36:00)

 

Connect with Laylee:

https://layleeemadi.com/

https://www.instagram.com/laylee_emadi/

Connect with Danait:

https://theasmaraagency.com/

https://www.instagram.com/danaitbg/

Connect with Akua:

akuakonadu.com

instagram.com/akuakonadu_

Subscribe to the Podcast:

Apple Podcast

Spotify

growing up first generation american

Review the Transcript:

Akua Konadu
Welcome to here’s the tea with Akua. That’s me. And this is a place where we have candid conversations about various hot topics. Each week, you’ll be hearing some amazing stories of everyday people like you and me, there’ll be spilling the tea and giving us an honest look into their lives. I believe that our stories are powerful. And when shared, they can change not only our perspectives, but also our lives. No topic is off limits. So have a seat and get ready because we are going to be making uncomfortable conversations comfortable.

Akua Konadu
Hey, y’all, welcome back to another episode of here’s the T with Akua. And I am really looking forward to this conversation today, because I don’t think it’s talked about very often. So today, we are going to be talking about what it is like being a first generation kid growing up here in the US. It’s a little bit about my story. I’m first generation, my family’s from Ghana, and I was born here in the US. So I wanted to have a conversation today with other people who maybe had similar experiences as me. And so today I’m joined by two of my dear friends, who are also first generation, we’re gonna be talking about our experiences, say so I would love to welcome lately and tonight. Hello, ladies.

Laylee Emadi
Hi, friend. Thanks for having me.

Akua Konadu
Yes.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

Akua Konadu
Yes, yes, absolutely. So for anybody that is not really sure what first generation is, it’s pretty much just means that you were either your parents are from a different country. And you either grew up here in the US at a very, very young age to where this is all you know, or you were actually born here. So I’m super, super excited to have this conversation and these very talk about our unique experiences. So tonight, share with us a little bit about, first of all, who you are, what it is that you do, and then also like where you are from?

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah, of course. So I’m Danait Berhe-Gabre. And I am a messaging and positioning strategist. And I help entrepreneurs really solidify that in their businesses. But where I’m from is Eritrea is a country in East Africa, North of Ethiopia. And right on right on the Red Sea. And I was actually born there. And I was there until almost, I was almost five years old. And I do remember a lot of my life there. So the transition here was hard. But yeah, that’s where I’m from. And then we emigrated to the US in the late, late 90s. So yeah,

Akua Konadu
I love that. And so like it’s I love tonight connected with you, because I’m West African, and she’s East African. And Africa is a huge continent. So but it’s just, first of all, I love Ethiopian food, injera. That’s life. So shout out. If y’all have not tried Ethiopian food, I’m telling you now you miss an out. Okay, so yeah, really are. And then Laylee, um, share with us who you are, what it is that you do and where you’re from?

Laylee Emadi
Oh, my goodness, first of all, now I’m hungry. Because yummy. Food is amazing. Yes. Um, yeah. So I’m lately, I am a coach for creative educators. So entrepreneurs who want to start offering education in their business, whether it’s mentoring, speaking, course creation, all the things. So that’s what I do. I was actually born in Iran. So I wasn’t born here. But we moved here when I was just a baby. So unlike tonight, I don’t have a lot of memories of you know, growing up in Iran, I was born there, we moved here to America. But interestingly enough, I also kind of had a hard adjustment, you know, around that same age of five years old when you start school, because culturally, we grew up just really, really close knit, close knit family. And we found kind of a makeshift family of other immigrants as well. And I’m sure we’ll talk about that. So it’s it’s definitely been interesting being born in another country, not remembering it, but still kind of feeling so tied to that country as well. So I’m excited for this conversation.

Akua Konadu
Yeah, and let’s, let’s talk about that, of how that experience was for you transitioning, especially when you get to school. I feel like, you know, obviously, before the age of five, like all we know, is our family. And that’s like our little bubble. And then as soon as we start to transition with other kids, we start to kind of realize how different we are. So what was that experience like for you lately? I’ll start with you first.

Laylee Emadi
Yeah, I mean, actually, it’s really interesting because it’s been a kind of a hot topic of conversation with me and my mom lately because I I’m the youngest of three girls, but I am the only one who was who went through like English as a Second Language classes. I couldn’t really speak English very well when I started school. And because of that, honestly, the school system kind of failed me up through like the third grade I, I was struggling to like, really grasp the language so much so that my reading skills were delayed and kind of teachers just kept passing me on up and, you know, letting me be like the next teachers problem. So that was one thing that we’ve been talking about lately because I wasn’t quite, I didn’t really understand, like, Why was I the only one that couldn’t really speak English before I started school when I was the youngest. But essentially, like you said, a COA, what happened was, I was with my mom all day, every day and, and with our family. And so I really only heard Farsi, like our, our language being spoken, the majority of the time, and my other older two sisters started school, you know, right when we moved to America, so So that’s kind of where that gap lies. But it’s, it’s been really it’s been interesting to see like, a huge gap in in knowledge and in just like cultural immersion, when you’re growing up the child of immigrants or an immigrant yourself. So that’s kind of like, one of the main things that I would I would talk about is just kind of like the school system in general and cultural differences and even language barriers.

Akua Konadu
Oh, yeah, that is such a really good point. Well, it’s interesting because like, your mom would speak Farsi to you, but my mom, so our native language is called tree. And my family never spoke it to us, like my mom spoke to us in English. And now that I’m older, I get shamed by all the African aunties because you can’t be true. Where is Doris? Like, they start calling my mom to shame her. And then I’m sitting there like, Hmm, yup, get her because she’s, she messed up there. But anyways,

Laylee Emadi
I mean, honestly, the ironic part is now my, my own mom shames me, because my English is so much stronger than my Farsi. And she’s like, who raised you? And I’m like, woman, I can’t win.

Akua Konadu
I can’t win. Oh, my gosh, that’s too funny tonight. What about you? Because you have an interesting perspective, too. And you being five. So like, you obviously had a lot more memory and a lot more understanding of your culture at that time. So how was that experience for you?

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah, that’s a great question. So it’s so interesting to hear both of you share this, because it’s like, oh, we had similar experiences, as well. And so for me, it was a really, really hard transition coming to the US because back home, I was always surrounded by like, my aunts and uncles. And like, we just, it was just like, our immediate family. So like, my mom and dad, and my sister and I, who came and it was like, none of like, my grandmother wasn’t none of those people came with us. And so I spent my days hanging out with my cousin’s, like, so much freedom to be a kid and like, do whatever you want, spend the day outside. And then we came here, and we came in October. I think we came here on if I’m remembering correctly, it was like, on or around Halloween. So my parents were like, What is this devil stuff here? It was go with like people in costumes and like the decoration. We were like, Oh, this is weird. And yeah, we just, you come and you’re with your family. It’s cold, you don’t know anyone except other immigrants and other like Eretrians in the community who you can connect with. And my parents really wanted to make sure we spoke our language. So they refuse to speak English to us. Even though they both could speak English. They were just like, we’re not doing that. So we had to do English as a second language at school. It was so hard to make friends because people make fun of you because they’re like, you don’t know English. Haha. And you’re like, No, I know what bizarre language like Do you not know that? Can you speak my language? No. So that was really that was a really interesting time. And it was really hard. I was not a fan. I was like, Why did you bring us here I was like, so angry at my parents. Like, it’s like you guys messed up. And I think the hardest. We had we went to a really great school district where English as a second language, we had like a great teacher, and my sister and I could do that together. So that was great, because we had each other and it was like comforting to be in a class where they like separate you from your classroom to come take you to this little room by yourself. But I think for me, the hardest transition was realizing that my skin color in America was like a bad thing like that had never even like entered my mind ever. Because everyone where I was from is brown or black. Like we all it just I just see other people who look like me every day like it was and skin color was never like, I think that people disgust like that or made you feel different about and I think that was like my biggest shock when I went to school people would comment or say something. I’m like, I’m like, Wait, this is a problem. Like I can’t do anything about that. Okay, English, I can learn that but I can’t do anything about so that was like, really challenging. And we had a few like a few years and a few experiences with different teachers and different schools that were that really were just like not not great at all. So yeah, that initial transition. Moving here was really really difficult. At least for me. My sister didn’t remember as much so she had an easier time of like, even though she had similar experiences at school for her it was a little less like of a culture like a difference for me. I felt like being ripped away. ate from something that was so comfortable and something I really loved. So, yeah, that was an interesting time for sure.

Akua Konadu
Yeah, the culture shock had to have been like, huge.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yes. Oh my goodness, yes. Like, you can’t go anywhere, like people are telling, you know, parents like, oh, you can’t leave your kids by themselves, like, back home, like, everyone took care of everybody’s kids, you could be left by yourself, like you played outside all day. Like there was no people would never think to like steal a child or like hurt a child. They’re like, that’s just not even a thing. And my parents were like, What in the world like, and I was like, I want to go outside. They’re like, No, you can’t do that. Like,

Akua Konadu
they’re like, You ain’t getting snatched baby, you ain’t gonna get there.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah, I was like, what it was, I was so um, flat.

Akua Konadu
Oh, my gosh, I think that is a really good point. Because you know, we are all women of color. And I do want to highlight too, that all of us are from our family and our origins and where we’re from are from very different countries, very different backgrounds, but so many similarities, especially our experiences growing up here and also to like race being a thing, right? Like us not realizing that necessarily, like our race may be an issue. But then you come into these spaces where all of a sudden, now it is and then how do you have to start navigating that. And so I know, I’ve talked with both of you guys about this. But I feel like when you are first generation, you do kind of feel like you’re caught in the middle. A lot. Like I know, for me, obviously being raised in an African household with African values, and then obviously, to having to kind of you leave outside the house that is kind of like almost like it’s a different world. And you have to almost play like a chameleon, right? Just to make yourself more palpable, more likeable, those types of things. And so how has that experience been for you? Did you guys both kind of do the same thing? tonight? I’ll start with you.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah, that’s a really great question. Yeah, I always say that I lived in like two worlds that I had to like, find a way to bring those together. Because like you said, in your home, there’s different values, there’s different and a lot of times like Eastern cultures, where we all are from have very different value structures in terms of like family and community and things like that. And then it’s different here in like Western cultures. And so it’s hard to bring those two together, when your family is very much like, that’s what they grew up. That’s what they know. And they’re going to pass on their value systems to you. So for me, I was really proud of my culture, I was really proud of where I was from, I was really proud of like, being able to speak my language. And so for me, the challenge was always trying to figure out, okay, how do I communicate with people here in a way that they understand and can relate to and like, it’s within their cultural norms, but also keep, like, my sense of identity and sense of self, because I never really wanted to lose that. And I was really proud of that. So that was really an interesting time trying to navigate all of that and figure out how I can do that, especially with parents who don’t understand like, some of the cultural things and you wanting to make friends like you, I’m like, I want to make friends I want to have people to hang out with like, that’s what I knew back. I’m like, I want to do that. And trying to be able to bring those two together in the middle where I felt comfortable to where I felt like I could, you know, because there were things about American culture that I really loved and wanted to, like, incorporate, and there’s things about my culture that I really love. And so for me, it was always like a balancing act of like, trying to figure that out. And I say that now, as a messaging strategist, like that’s my whole life has been about, like, figuring out how to communicate with people in an effective way while keeping your own like values and who you are and your own identity, but also making sure that other people can understand you and get you and what you’re trying to say. So yeah, that was interesting. I would say it was a long journey. But yeah, I think that was how I tried to navigate was trying to also honor my parents, I never wanted to like, because that was like, I understood the weight of like, leaving your home and like, understood the weight of like, being in a country that they didn’t know that they weren’t respected, where none of their expertise, like mattered anymore. And they had to, like, you know, do things and do jobs that they wouldn’t have had to do back home. And so I understood that and wanted to honor them while also being able to also be a kid, you know, like, your kid, you want to also experience kids stuff. And so yeah, I would say that was the most challenging, but that’s how I tried to kind of bring those pieces together. I don’t know if that makes make sense. Or if that answers the question, but

Akua Konadu
no, it does and Lily’s out her her head y’all. Up and down like huh, alright lady give it to us.

Laylee Emadi
Honestly, honestly, it’s like listening to my own. It’s like listening to myself. It’s so fascinating because like you said, we are from all different places, but literally that could have been like, what I would say 100% I almost feel redundant. Just saying it again, but I mean, for sure. I think it was I think it was really difficult to to navigate being that chameleon like you said a coup and and honestly like I was so Growing up, I was so proud of my culture, I was proud to have, you know, two places to call home, up through high school up through 911. That that became a lot trickier. But I remember, you know, in middle school, being really excited to talk about, you know, this is our culture, especially when in school, you’re learning about world cultures. And you’re learning about world history. And I remember being like, well, I can contribute to this conversation, like, here’s some of my culture, and not wanting to lose that, but still also blending in and fitting in, in America with, you know, American kids and being like, I want to I also want to be, you know, part of this as well. But yeah, I mean, it definitely got a lot harder for me in high school when I when I was like, No, I’m totally not from anywhere, this is where I’m from. And, you know, I felt I felt a lot of pressure to downplay that, and to like, do everything that I possibly could to not look like I was from the Middle East, but, but up until then, I mean, and still, then it was just quieter. I mean, my pride and my culture was so strong, and it was definitely a difficult thing to balance trying to try to have both. And, you know, as I got older, I’m married, like, the whitest white man in the universe. I mean, Tim Smith, Boy Next Door, he’s just so white.

Akua Konadu
I’d like to give a shout out though to Tim Tim. We love him.

Laylee Emadi
loved him. And, you know, Tim has absorbed a lot of our culture, I feel like in my friend group, we are pretty much primarily Persians, we’re all Iranian. And with our spouses that come in, they tend to just become like, their own version of it. Like I literally tell him like your honorary Iranian, like he, he cooks the food with my mom when she comes to visit and he picks up on the link like he tries so hard, you know, and and also, um, he just enjoys the culture as well, I think and so it’s ended up okay, but I was so scared to lose that culture, being in America and like, I did I mean, I am I am a quote unquote, like diluted version of, of like, the full blooded Iranian that I would have been if I were raised in Iran, like 100%. My, my language skills are not as strong as they would have been if I was, If I lived there. But you know, it’s it’s definitely a coup. It’s, you’re right. It’s very interesting. And it’s it’s kind of hard to play chameleon all the time. And I’m lucky that now that I’m in my mid mid 30s. Love saying that, now that I’m older, will say now that I’m older, I do feel like I just don’t care anymore. And so I don’t I’ve kind of stopped playing chameleon, which is been very freeing, but up until up until now, it’s been quite the balancing act.

Akua Konadu
Yeah, no, I first of all, I want to say to both of you that I really do admire that both of you, especially at a younger age felt very proud of your culture, because I will be honest, I didn’t, especially at a really young age like my Okay, so y’all, I’m just gonna share this really fast tidbit. I have two names. Okay. So my legal name that I was born with on my birth certificate is Alexis, Adi, Bobby. And then Akua konadu Is my Ganya name, which is the name I choose to go by. And so at the time, Alexis, is what I went by, and so I hated my last name so much, because everybody like haha, Alexis auto body, and I would hate that growing up, rage. I know. And so I took the audio out of my name. So growing up as a kid, I’d be Alexis, Bobby. And people would be like, you have to first names of like, mind your business, mind your business, you know what I mean? And so like, and then as I got older into high school, like, you know, like, a lot of the food that my mom would make is very potent, and I’d be like, afraid that like, you know, like the I would smile and so I’m trying to like, and I you know, straight my hair, I wouldn’t embrace like, naturally who I was, I wanted my for sure to look as American as possible and be as palatable as possible. And it wasn’t until I literally got to my mid 20s, when I just was kind of like, I’m really over it. And again, like, I don’t want to be a chameleon anymore. It’s exhausting. And so that was when I dropped a left sided Bobby, that’s still my legal name, because it’s a way to honor my mom because she chose the name Alexis, but Akula konadu I’m like, that is more me. And I’m now like, trying to learn more to about my culture and get back because even when I was younger, my mom would like cook and then she tried to get my sister and I to cook and I was like, I’m not gonna fall victim to that patriarchy. I’m not cooking anything like me. And now I’m like, Mom, like, please show me how to cook because this is your legacy. Like, these are the things that I want to be able to carry. Should I be married and have kids and now she looks at me like at it like this. Like, this is what I’ve been trying to tell you this whole time and she loves me y’all. I’m like, my mom is hardcore. Great. But she definitely shades me as she’s like teaching me how to cook. So anyways,

Laylee Emadi
I mean, okay, I will say pride aside tonight and I are sitting here like nodding heads along with you because I think I don’t know about you tonight, but I can relate to like, I would smell like literally like onions walking into, like Mom Stop cooking like we would have to tell her like don’t cook food. If you’re gonna cook tell us so we can close our door doors, open

Akua Konadu
the windows, wrap our hair, everything Yeah.

Laylee Emadi
And I also I would, you know, straighten my hair and try to blend it. So I had a lot of pride in my culture, but it was it still was secondary to like, don’t make fun of me. I’m the only one in my family the only one out of the three kids to not change my name. So we get you know, it’s not all of that was underlying I feel like I feel like I was very proud of my culture but I don’t want to gloss over the fact that like it was not you. Yeah, yes.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yes, yes. I totally agree with agree with that. You have that sense of pride but you also you’re a teenager like you want to like you want to have friends you want to fit in you don’t want to be the weird one out and people are mean like kids are like it’s not even like it was like a little seven be like stuff that cuts deep and you’re like I’m not doing like so dramatic like so. Yeah, I definitely would like I never changed my name but I’d always like try and make it like easier for people to pronounce and like when the teacher would like pause I’d feel so long I’d be like oh yeah, that’s me like you don’t have to say it just like cross it off. I’m here like no, we

Laylee Emadi
we know when our name is coming up and it’s like Yep, here I am substitute teacher don’t worry about it.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yes, yes. You’re like that’s me just keep on moving through the list like don’t go

Akua Konadu
don’t draw any more attention to me now just keep it pushing.

Laylee Emadi
Y’all we should have been we should have grown up in high school now because it is trendy with the yes kids to be an immigrant to be different in any way like we were born in the wrong generation.

Akua Konadu
Honestly, honestly, and so well thank you for that because I like I said I felt kind of alone in that so the fact that you both like understand Thank you. I do want to touch base on names because I do feel like it’s super important and the fact of like how much we’ve had to bend to make it easier for people to say our names so like okay, lately let’s talk about you because your name you taught said it to me several times and I love your name but a lot of people don’t know that about you like your actual name so do you mind sharing that

Laylee Emadi
like my last name?

Akua Konadu
Yeah, what’s your full name how you say properly don’t

Laylee Emadi
I don’t have a middle name my maiden last name is is really long and so we hyphenated it and then I dropped so my my name in life right now is Leila Mati. my legal name is Leila Mati Smith because I’m married Tim Smith. But my maiden name My full name is Leila Mati. Azhar, and Imani is our it’s actually Mr. De Azar. But that’s the name that was hard for people so we hyphenated it and then I ended up just dropping the Azhar but yeah, it’s it’s it’s tricky, man. It’s Laylee is not hard. Like once you once you meet me and you say, What’s your name? And I say lelee Nobody flinches. But there is something about like reading a name. Even when you spell it just how it sounds where people are like, What? What is this?

Akua Konadu
That part? Who are you denying that out? Tonight? For the longest time I said your name wrong, but now I know I say it correctly. But how do people commonly mispronounce your name?

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Oh, can a deny I’m like

Laylee Emadi
it. I tried to be violent.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah, I’m like, No, it’s there. And like, it’s you pronounce that even with like, in our culture, it’s like Da Night. So it’s like, dot isn’t like how you would say it in Russian. Like, like when people say dots like that night. And so even that people would be like, I’m like, da night, that night. Like, not that complicated. And people just be like, you like new crazy, just like, what? I’m like just sounded out. So yes, Nay, I would always make it easier. people be like, can I just call you D? I’m like, No, I used to be like, Yeah, sure. Whatever, like, okay, because you’re just so tired. You’re like, whatever. You, whatever. You’re like,

Laylee Emadi
at this point, that the audacity of people asking to call us something different and me not knowing that that was offensive for a long time is kind of embarrassing. Yeah. Like, like Leila. So like Leila. And I’m like, Well, sure. But no, whatever.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
No, no really though, like but no, now I’m like, No, nope, don’t love that. No, you will not call me that. And done. Yeah, like everybody

Akua Konadu
done night. I don’t want if you miss this episode, and I know you listen to this and I Hey, we’re even wrong. I’m gonna be up in your DMS period. Okay? My, the reason I bring it up is because names are so important and the fact of like, a lot of us, especially first generation have no kids, like we do find ourselves caught in the middle a lot. And so again, we make ourselves more powerful to make other people comfortable. And so it’s like, if you can say the name Kowalski. Haba, Loski I don’t I don’t give a shit. Tonight, you can say a coup I cannot do or Alexis, I do, Bobby, you can. And so I’m just saying with a lot more European names, how people make sure to say that correctly. They can say other countries like the names of other like people from other countries as well. So I wanted to bring that up, because it’s important. So thank you. I got a little feisty there. Y’all

Danait Berhe-Gabre
love it. No. And it’s so serious names are support especially like, especially because people pick those neat, like your parents pick those names for you. And sometimes there’s meaning behind it, or they just really love that and they wanted to give that name to you. And like, it’s so demeaning when people are just like, oh, yeah, I’m gonna just call you d you’re like, No, you won’t. Pause. No, you all are just like, Oh, that’s so interesting. So difficult to pronounce. And you’re like, Okay, thanks. Like, you’re like a not for my family. It isn’t like, you know, so yes. It’s so important to just say people’s names, right. sounded out ask. I don’t know. Yeah,

Akua Konadu
exactly. The lady’s face throughout this whole thing. I just love you so much.

Laylee Emadi
I just, I’ve never felt like anything was so relatable. I like I mean, whenever we talk a coup, I’m always like, yeah, yeah, like, we’re the same. It’s kind of crazy, but it’s just crazy. Now bringing in a third party and being like, this is literally like listening to myself. On an echo. It’s awesome.

Akua Konadu
I know. It’s it’s so nuts. So let’s talk about dating, because I really do.

Laylee Emadi
Lately goes, Oh, God.

Akua Konadu
How is dating like for you? So tonight? How is dating for you just being first generation.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Lol. So there was no such thing as like dating. Like,

Danait Berhe-Gabre
I used to tell my parents like, we were always really open. I’m really glad that like, with my parents, I could be open and share things with them. And so I’d be like, Oh, my friend Meccans like dating, and my parents would be like, you’re like, Okay, notice, like, that’s not gonna happen. So yeah, there was like, dating was considered like, you do that once you have a college degree and you have a job. Then you date someone. And by dating, we mean like, you find the person you’re going to marry, date them for a hot second, and then get married and move on with your life. Like, there was none of this, like, Oh, you’re just gonna be out here, dating and getting to know people like, that wasn’t their thing. My parents had an arranged marriage. So they dated once they were engaged, like through their families like they did. That’s when they date. That’s what they were like, my mom was like, Yeah, I thought about dating just like your dad. And I dated. I’m like, Did you though? Like, it was so innocent and cute. Like, they just go to like, you know, this cute little ice cream place and they have ice cream together. That’s like, and then you have to go home before it gets dark. Like, there’s no being out in the streets after dark. That’s not allowed. So yeah, that was not a thing. So I went to college. Luckily, I met my husband, my freshman year in college, I wasn’t even thinking about dating. But I met him. And his parents are also Eritrean. He was born in the US, though. And so we’re from the same country, we kind of met through a mutual friend. And I was like, Oh, this is not great. Because like, we really like each other, and we’re like, gonna start dating. So we started dating, and I told my mom, I can’t do that. I told my mom, while we were driving me back to school, because I was like, this is a safe place. She will not endanger our lives in a vehicle.

Akua Konadu
You were smart, you were smart. Because I

Danait Berhe-Gabre
knew that they would feel like and it wasn’t even about the data to them. It was just like, you just left home, to go to school. And like now you’re just going to be focusing on a guy and not focusing on like, your future or your education. And that’s like the thing they didn’t want us to just like, get caught up with a dive, fall in love and then be like, Yeah, I don’t care about school. I don’t care about anything. I’m just gonna go follow my boyfriend around around the world. They’re like, No. So yeah, that was interesting. But they were at first. They were just like, really like, little this is not good. Like my parents were like, maybe you should wait, like, don’t do it. Like, wait until you finish school. Like why can’t you wait like, what’s the big deal, but they’ve definitely come around and my mom loves. My mom loves someone more than me. I feel like sometimes especially like, just like, how was my son’s some undoing. I’m like, he’s fine. He’s great. Like, how am I doing? Let’s ask that question. I’m just kidding. My mom and I are like really close, but she just loves they love him. But it was interesting to get them to understand what dating was like. And just like, do having that experience that was, that was a journey. That was a journey is what I will say. That is a journey. And now my sister is a lawyer. She’s done with school. She’s a lawyer, she has a job. And now they’re pushing her. They’re like, Oh, are you dating someone? I’m like, I’m the oldest. So like, everything was always like harder with me. Like, wait, now we’re asking if people are dating. You often ask me that. The injustice there? Really, though?

Akua Konadu
Oh my gosh, lately, and for you like you touch base on it. Because it’s really interesting for you because you are married to Tim Smith, who, as you said, and I quote, y’all, I can’t say this lady said this. the whitest. We know. So how was that experience for you? And especially like merging the two cultures?

Laylee Emadi
Yeah. Tim Smith, he’s great. Merging the cultures has been actually it’s been fine, honestly. So I also I was not allowed to date in high school. It was just not a question. It was like, No, you can’t do that. That’s like not what we do in this house. So the you know, the first people I ever dated, were in college, and even then, kind of similarly, I feel like there’s levels, right. Like, there’s different levels of like, immigrant parents and how strict they are. And like, even among my friends. So my parents were definitely in the middle. Like, they were like you can date when you graduate high school when you’re in college, but even then, like Don’t take it so seriously. And so I met him like as an adult, post, post college post real life, like we’re both in real, real jobs. And when we got married, when we started really seriously dating, everybody always asked me and even my previous like, Guys, I had dated, everybody would always ask like, Well, how do your parents feel that they’re not Iranian? And my parents don’t they do not care? Like they just didn’t they cared about literally one thing, and that is like, are they a good human being? Are they treating you? Well? Like, is he a good guy? I mean, obviously, they care about more than one thing. They’re like, you know, Is he reliable is independent of all the things that like, you know, a typical parent would wonder. Ironically, I think, and we are great as a family, like, I love his parents, my parents love his parents and vice versa, like everybody gets along really well. But I think it was more of a culture shock to his family. To see my family. Like, even at the wedding, I remember them being like, whoa, like, this is different. You know, like, a lot of this is different. And so I think it was more of an adjustment for his parents. And it was for mine. Probably because obviously, we were we already went through the culture shock growing up here. So yeah, so it’s definitely been interesting. Personally, just you know, on a, on a personal note, I was nervous to, to marry, you know, my sweet Tim Smith Boy Next Door, because I feel like I had already. I had already lost a lot of, of my culture and and to be quite frank, I was I think I was right in that fear. Because now like, since since we’ve been married, almost, we’re about to hit our 10 year mark of being married. We’ve been together for 12 years. Yes. Very exciting. However, in those 12 years, like, my language skills have gone downhill like I because I, he is my home, like he is my family, my immediate family now. And so, yeah, a lot. A lot of that, I think, is sacrificed when you when you marry someone outside of your culture and outside of your, you know, your ethnicity, or your language or whatever. So it’s been interesting, but I can’t complain. I mean, our family, we’re kind of in the best case scenario. Our families really love each other, and we love them and everyone’s happy. So it worked out. Well.

Akua Konadu
Yeah, yeah. No, you both touched on so many points. And I’m like, You guys, this podcast has gone over way more than I thought, because there’s so much to unpack. Like, I could literally talk to both of y’all for hours. But you both gave such such important insight. So I want to ask one more question. How has your experiences shaped who you are? And like, even how you operate in the world, how you operate in your business, just growing up as first generation? Um, legal first?

Laylee Emadi
That’s such a loaded question. Oh, my gosh, I feel like if I could maybe pick one like one thing to focus on, I think a lot of my strengths in coaching and in what I do now, are a direct result of the empathy I think that I carry for people and being able to kind of put myself in other people’s shoes. You know, growing up, it was really hard. And I mean, it still is hard, I say growing up, but even as a 30 something year old. It I really hate saying that. Well, even you know, as an older adult, it is still hard to be different than everybody around you. But the lessons that I learned in struggling through that, especially from my mother, who’s incredibly empathetic, and who would I would have like a run in with somebody And she would come at it from the perspective of like, here’s why that person is having a problem with this. Like, I remember when Tim and I got engaged, you know, it wasn’t easy for his family that I was a different religion or a different ethnicity or whatever. And, and I would tell my mom, like, I feel weird about it, like, I feel nervous about this. And she would say, well, they were raised this way. And this is what they envision being the best for their son for the best for their child, the best for their family. And so you have to understand that and so the empathy that I was raised with, from my mother’s perspective now allows me I think, to be a better coach, a better speaker, a better advocate for diversity and equity and inclusivity. Because I’m able to kind of approach people where they are, as opposed to expecting them to get where I am, overnight. So I think that’s probably probably one of the biggest ways it’s impacted kind of what I do now and where I’m at now.

Akua Konadu
Yeah, I love that. That’s so good. And tonight, what about you?

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah, I love that, too. I think that a lot of immigrant families are that way, because you have to look at things from multiple perspectives, because that’s just the world that you live in. I would say, for me, I think it was directly related to what I do. Specifically, I would say just the ability to communicate with people in a way that honors yourself, but also honors the other person, I feel like that was something I had to, to learn the hard way on my own, especially, you know, when you’re sharing something with your parents, and it’s not something that they will understand or that you know, is different or whatever, you obviously you’re trying to communicate in a way that they will still feel honored and respected as a parent, but also understand where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to do. I think that takes a lot of, again, empathy and understanding where people are at and where you’re at. And also just being able to look at things from more than one perspective, I think has really impacted me in my business and how I work with clients one on one, but even in my own personal business, I think just being able to approach things and know that there’s no one right answer. And I think as immigrants, you know that because you have a different culture, you come somewhere else, they have a different culture, and you’re like, oh, wait, you can do this thing in a couple different ways. We didn’t know that. That’s cool. And I think that gives you that ability to have like this multifaceted approach to things which is so much more inclusive, it’s so much more diverse, because you can, you can like clearly said, meet people where they’re at instead of just being like, this is the only way you have this ability to kind of really, yeah, create that multifaceted approach to things. And so I really, really appreciate that. And I think, just also, because we can’t not mention that is just the grit it takes to be an immigrant and to survive in a new place, and just create that sense of safety and success for your own family. I think that’s also one of the most like, one of the things I love most about being an immigrant and coming from parents who are immigrants is just having that resiliency and strength to do that, I think is also something that is very valuable and entrepreneurship.

Akua Konadu
I love both of that so much. And I just even want to end this episode, just given a shout out to the parents who sacrificed their life to come to this country, the unknown, and not knowing what’s going to happen with kids to build a better life for us.

Laylee Emadi
I mean, literally, I could cry, whatever. Like when, when denied was talking, I literally was thinking grit and gratitude. like, Hmm, I think about the things our parents went through, and I I literally just cry, I sit there and cry. And I’m like, I could I could never.

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah. And they’re so grateful. They’re just like, okay, they’re always so grateful. Even they never are just like, I don’t know, they’re always they had the sense of like, Nope, we thank God for what we have, like, be grateful. They’re just like always focusing on the positive and never. And it’s just like, that’s, that is so incredible. So so incredible. makes me cry.

Akua Konadu
Yes. And it’s also to the point, the legacy that they’re creating, right. And so that legacy that we get to carry, and be able to, to honor them. So shout out to all the immigrant parents, y’all are doing the damn thing. You’re amazing. And shout out to the kids, the first generation kids like us, we see you. And if you are one of those kids that are having a hard time, just know that it gets it gets better, you know. And so this has been such a very life giving conversation. And I’m glad to know that we all three of us are entrepreneurs doing the damn thing and living life to the beat of our own drum and honoring our culture and who we are at the same time. So thank you both so much for being here.

Laylee Emadi
Thank you. This was awesome. I love you guys. I’m like can we keep talking after we stop hitting record?

Danait Berhe-Gabre
Yeah, yeah. Thank you,

Akua Konadu
for sure. Y’all. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as we did. And until next time. Thank you so much for tuning in to here’s the tea with Akua. If you are loving the podcast, I’d be so honored if you go ahead and hit that subscribe button on your favorite podcast player and leave me a review. This helps grow the podcast so more people can be impacted by the story shared by powerful guests like in today’s episode. Until next time, go make uncomfortable conversations a little more comfortable.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

SITE CREDITS | TERMS AND CONDITIONS

©2022 AKUA KONADU,LLC