I moved here from Columbia when I was three years old. I don't have many memories of my life there, just stories from my mom and dad. We had a good life, so I was told. My father was an architect, and my mother was an accountant. We were successful in life. However, Columbia was becoming increasingly politically unstable. Crime was everywhere. There was lots of violence. We were lucky. My parents' success allowed us to leave for a better, more guaranteed future.
We moved to Canada for two reasons: its beauty and the richness of the economy, thanks to the oil and gas industry at the time. However, moving here and making Canada feel like home was much more difficult than anticipated. My parents had to sacrifice their careers and start from the beginning. My dad, whose passion was architecture, had to forgo his career. All that school, training, and work to build his career in the industry was left behind in Columbia and replaced with garbage-collecting. My mom wasn't much different. Her career in accounting transitioned to retail. Finally, after a few years, she was able to return to school to learn the ins and outs of a job she already knew. Despite her academic success, she still experienced discrimination. The most appalling moment was when a professor told her she couldn't speak English well enough to continue her career.
This professor was one of the few times we felt Canadians had expressed themselves openly and honestly. Moving from a country where my neighbours truthfully expressed their thoughts and feelings to a country where I had to guess how my neighbours really felt was hard, especially since it was just the three of us. Without my extended family, all that we had was each other. When I was young, I looked forward to the trips to 7/11 to get the cards with the extra phone minutes to hear my family's genuine warmth.
As I got older, I felt more accepted in my new home. I made good friends here and had a better childhood than what I would've had back in Columbia. The teachers were so supportive; one even bought groceries for my family after seeing signs of struggle. Despite this, my identity feels stuck in two places, yet none at the same time. When I go back to Columbia, I feel so different from the rest of my family. However, when I return to Canada, some people feel they can decide for themselves if I'm "Canadian enough." Nevertheless, my family, my friends, and my faith that I am better off here than in Columbia makes dealing with those who live in a bubble worth it.
Despite the struggle and isolation we experienced when we first immigrated here, I know my parents are happy with their choice for us. They were prepared to give up whatever they could for me. Although success looked much different here than in Columbia, I think what they've accomplished – their own business, a successful accounting career, and healthy kids with a guaranteed future – has made that hardship worth it.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Bronagh Monaghan and Ana Martinez