First Generation American Seeks Mental Clarity and Success Through Music

BLOOMFIELD, NJ 4/14/19 IMMIGRANTS IN THE MUSIC SCENE Jed Valencia of Alive In Fiction stands in the doorway of his Bloomfield, NJ home.

Trying to make it big as a rock star is a hard, daunting task that few succeed at. It’s even tougher in an American society that focuses on traditional careers and a long education system. For the children of an immigrant family, this task can be even more overwhelming. Jed Valencia is a 23 year old resident of Bloomfield, NJ. Jed plays in two “metalcore” bands called Home Seeker and Alive In Fiction. His band Home Seeker has toured the east coast and played major music festivals like the Vans Warped Tour. Alive In Fiction is currently recording a new record and has shared the stage with major label bands like Rarity and I Set My Friends On Fire. It sounds like things are going great for the two projects and it can be argued that things are. However, the lifestyle can take a mental toll according to the 23 year old musician.

“Most of the things I really stress out about and panic over is; what if this whole thing doesn’t work?” said Jed in an in person interview. Jed is a sufferer of anxiety and depression and like 46.6 million other Americans (National Institute Of Mental Health) struggles with his illness on a daily basis. Jed feels that he has added pressure from his parents to succeed in his endeavors. Jed’s parents are from Tabuk which is a city of about 100,000 people in the northern part of the Philippeans. The couple met, got married, and moved to New Jersey where they adapted quickly and had Jed plus his older brother. The family has resided in Bloomfield ever since.

While Jed’s parents were able to come to America and find jobs to sustain them almost right away, Jed has had a bit of a tougher time finding his spot. “They got jobs that could actually sustain a family. They want me to do the same thing because they don’t want me to struggle when I get older”. Jed attended Montclair State University briefly, but didn’t make much headway. He now works in the school bookstore to pay his bills while he lives at home and works on his music. Jed has not profited off of his music endeavors yet and if anything has lost money because of his bands. Jed’s inability to make money off his music at this point has led to some conflict between his ideas of a career and his parents, which in turn has triggered a lot of the anxiety Jed experiences. “I would just stay in bed until like 5pm and whenever I got up, my whole body hurts” said Jed while describing the physical symptoms of his anxiety. “Sometimes my head gets strapped into a spot where (the mindset is) you’ve really done this to yourself.”

This trend of the children of immigrant parents experiencing problems with anxiety may not be that uncommon. In a study done by Christopher Salas-Wright for the Psychiatry Research journal in 2014, it was found that the “prevalence of mental health diagnoses increases among second generation immigrants” (Wright, 2014). As a matter of fact, the study showed that the children of first generation immigrants are almost 3% more likely to have an anxiety disorder (Wright, 2014). The Statistic holds true for rates of depression as well with a 4% greater chance of having a diagnosed disorder (Wright, 2014).     

“I kinda just want to keep doing this for as long as I can do it”

Jed Valencia (Alive In Fiction / Home Seeker)

The study also shows however that immigrants are less likely to have mental illness as a whole than people who were born in the United States. It’s suspected this is the case because immigrants have to be mentally healthy enough to make the unknown and tough transition to another country (Wright, 2014). How this translates to their children having higher rates of mental illness can be speculated on, but not said for sure.

Jed remains hopeful about his projects however. “I kinda just want to keep doing this for as long as I can do it” in reference to his bands “I feel so much therapy just from performing music, listening to music, and seeing other people do it because it makes them happy and it makes me happy.” Despite the pressures from his parents, they try to remain supportive of Jed and his creative projects. “My parents were actually excited that I was able to do that (tour) but they still hope that something takes off and that I’m able sustain myself in a way.”

This story is part of the Montclair State University #FocusImmigration project. Use the hashtag #FocusImmigration for more stories and to share your own.

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