If you asked me to describe my life in a word, I would choose ‘wonderful’ without hesitation. Sometimes I miss what once was more than I care to admit, but my gratitude for where life has led me doesn’t waiver with this confession. I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, and perhaps that is why I cherish my journey the way I do.
My home in Taiwan harboured hurdles for me; some I found throughout my career in trade and business as an office manager, and others in the form of intrusive social interactions with strangers. This being said, I also had a deep-rooted familiarity with my city streets, daily routine, and quiet dinners with my family. Despite all of this, even after over thirty years of life, I still didn’t know who I truly was and desperately wanted to find out.
When I heard of the holiday working visa in Canada, my next steps of action were immediately clear. I knew the value of an opportunity like this, and time was of the essence. I typed up my required information through an online application and waited for my fate to be decided a world away. The day I received my acceptance for my visa, I was in my office. I was going about my day when an email notification made my heart skip - what’s that!? My eyes flicked across the screen quickly and locked onto a single word: ‘congratulations!’. Reading that felt like the beginning of something significant, even then.
At first, I had planned to limit my stay in Canada to a year, as that was the length of leave I had taken from my job. I found work upon arrival in a restaurant kitchen, and attended English lessons, determined to learn as much as I could. Success soon followed, even with the dynamics of culture and power occasionally testing my spirit. Toward the end of my first year here, my employers extended an offer of continued employment. I didn’t have my decision ready right away, so I was given two weeks to make a choice. In that time, I took a trip through the Prairies, my mind grappling with what felt like an endless list of things to consider. The stability of my career and the support of my family was waiting for me to return, but I loved all I had explored while in Canada. I had gained valuable experiences and finally felt like I was learning who I was. While on my return bus ride, I looked out the window at the empty autumn outline and felt a sense of surrender. At that moment, I knew I was meant to stay. I had made my choice.
There was much to gain in staying. I met my husband at the very same restaurant I mentioned; we have now been married for ten years. Our partnership is something I remain grateful for as it has taught me about myself, as well as real life and love. He remained patient with me while I continued to learn English, never giving me an attitude for misunderstanding or needing a translation. This support stands out to me because in my experience as an immigrant, I struggled most with communication. When being considered for a job, or even speaking to people more generally, I often feel like my skills aren’t properly understood.
After a period of time, I decided that working in a restaurant did not suit me or the full range of my capabilities anymore, so I decided to pursue higher education in Canada. I focused on an expansion of my office skills in an English-speaking setting; I remember pulling all-nighters preparing for presentations, not knowing how to convey my true understanding of the content because of the language barrier between myself and Canadians. Luckily, I felt very uplifted by those in my programs, peers and instructors alike. Once, I was on my way to class in the regular morning sea of students and became unexpectedly overwhelmed with a feeling of pride. I thought: I’ve really done this. I’m really doing this. Tears welled in my eyes and I did not hide the pools as they overflowed onto my beaming cheeks.
These memories remind me of all I’ve been through. I can now say that I am fulfilled by my own strength to face my choices and overcome what stands in my way. As an immigrant to Canada, I can admit to feeling lucky for the beautiful community I get to be a part of every day while also recognizing the obstacles I have faced. Moving here and creating the happiness I have always craved has been my favourite challenge yet, and has really taught me what it means to be myself. So yes - if you asked me to describe my life in a word, I would still choose ‘wonderful’. Without hesitation.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Vonn Beaulieu and Poppy Liu