Lighting Your Own Way in the Journey of Life

I resigned from my job as a university professor at the Information Technology Department and came to Canada with my two daughters in September of 2005 for them to have a better future, and live in a country where women are respected. My elder daughter was just accepted into the Biomedical Science program at the University of Ottawa, and the younger one was starting grade six at the time. As a mother, I wanted the best for my daughters and for them to fulfill their dreams of becoming a doctor and a dentist someday; even if it was going to cost me my career.

This was a big decision for all of us, especially me. My friends and colleagues stated that I was making a big mistake, sacrificing my career as an Electronic Engineer, and helping my daughters chase their dreams when in reality there was no light at the end of the tunnel for us, and that I would return with regrets and empty hands. All these statements made me feel sad and afraid, but I was willing to give it a try for my daughters. Honestly, the move was not easy. I went from being a university professor to being invisible. I had no family or friends, and no one knew me here. There were many days where I felt lonely, hopeless, helpless, and lost; it was almost as if all that was said to me was true. Moreover, I was missing teaching and my students a lot.

I am determined by nature and thought that the best way to get settled and learn about a new society, its people, and culture was by immersing myself in it. I had no job, but this was not going to limit me; I was not willing to build walls around myself. I decided to volunteer as a computer teacher for an organisation that provided courses in centers that help immigrant women and at women’s shelters. This gave me a chance to put my skills into action and was a great outlet for my passion of teaching. It also gave meaning and direction to my life, and a new sense of belonging; it made me feel useful once again. I also had the opportunity to socialize, meet wonderful people from many different parts of the world, and make new friends. Most of all, I recognized that I am not the only one and not alone. Everyday through my teaching, I experienced how these courses really helped them overcome their fear of technology, improve their basic computer skills, connect with their loved ones across the country and the globe, as well as increase their chances of finding a job in the competitive market. My students were a source of inspiration and strength for me during those difficult days. I was no longer invisible and lost, but appreciated and valued.

I was later hired by the organization I volunteered for, and to date I have developed new courses for different centers, trained new computer instructors, and graduated over 200 proud students. Even today, seeing those ladies accomplishments make me feel very happy and I now know that even the tiniest help can go a long way in making an impact on someone’s life bi-directionally, and my students continue to impact and enrich my life for the better everyday. Personally, I feel very privileged, grateful, and satisfied to have been given the chance to contribute this way.

After much struggle, we were finally getting our lives together, and settling nicely in our newly found home. One evening me and my daughters, reminisced our journey to this new country over dinner, and I told them that before we moved, many people had stated to me that there was no light at the end of the tunnel for us and we made a big mistake by deciding to move. I was very heartened by what my elder daughter said to me, she said, “mommy, we don’t need to see any light at the end of the tunnel, you are the light of the tunnel”. This statement really hit home for me, we had come so far and I never really looked back. I recognized that I was stronger than I thought I ever was, and I now have a new outlook on life. I no longer let small hurdles and people’s comments upset me. People no longer define who I am, and I have learned to tap into my newly discovered inner strength in times of weakness.

This journey has been a big change for my daughters as well; they have also done their share and took advantage of the opportunities given to them. My younger daughter never had a chance to go on field trips or learn how to play an instrument. On her first class trip for ice skating, her teacher was very surprised at her excitement and told me that she was like a child in the candy store. We never knew she had a talent for music either, until following a cello audition her teacher called me and asked if she could join the school’s orchestra. She is now in grade 11, and plays the cello in both the intermediate and senior orchestras of her high school, participates in national competitions, and aspires to become a dentist someday. My elder daughter is also on her way to fulfilling her dreams. She co-authored a research paper that was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience last year, and is working on a master’s in Cellular and Molecular Medicine with full scholarship. She has also been accepted into medical school at the University of Ottawa, and hopes to become a surgeon or an internal medicine specialist some day.

Against all odds, we have now gotten over our difficulties and found happiness. We draw strength from over past difficulties as we face the future, and feel blessed to have had this experience. Our new family motto is, “don’t be discouraged by what people tell you, take charge of your life, be brave, and look within yourself for the light and not  others.”