A decade ago, a younger version of myself landed at Pearson Airport for the first time with two suitcases containing my whole life. After months of waiting for my entry visa, I stood feeling immensely privileged in those first moments upon arrival.
I recalled the immigration line for non-Canadians being much longer than the line for Canadian citizens. It was rush hour at Pearson, and I patiently walked through for about an hour. After being reviewed by an immigration officer, I was told to line up at another office to obtain a student permit. Another hour or so goes by, and I felt exhausted from the 14-hour flight but excited to start this new chapter in my life.
As I was walking out of the airport, I looked around with excitement and thought to myself, really? It’s 6 pm and still sunny out?! I hope I will be able to sleep enough in Canada. I walked towards a sign with my name on it. A representative from the English school was waiting to drive me to Oshawa, Ontario where I would be starting University and my Canadian adventure.
Fast forward 10 years, I have fallen in love with the Greater Toronto area: the wonderful people I’ve met, the beautiful nature around me, and the growth I have experienced within myself. And most importantly: Tim Horton’s Boston Cream donut.
Since I hit my 10-year milestone during this global pandemic, I have been spending time thinking and reflecting on a decade full of ups and downs. Many mistakes have taught me great life lessons. If this is the beginning of your journey into Toronto or Canada, I believe you will find my most important lessons insightful (I hope).
1. Discomfort is My Best Teacher
My natural inclination towards anything uncomfortable is to escape it. The thought comes to mind: why put yourself through something that makes you feel uneasy, why feel pain if you can avoid it. We as humans are naturally wired this way as a survival mechanism. What I learned is that every time I decided to embrace the unknown, I became much stronger and better on the other end. From doing what others thought was best for me to later making aligned personal and career choices, from feeling awkward in social situations to later bringing my true self, and from facing personal past trauma to later building healthier boundaries. Rather than stepping away from the challenge, I started looking for alternative ways to make myself feel safe and secure while moving through the discomfort.
A few years ago when I first moved to the city, I decided to get involved in building a startup with a friend I connected with. I was scared, uncomfortable and worried about the future. A year and a few months went by, we didn’t make it for many reasons. However, I learned some challenging lessons, including; how to turn self-doubts into faith, how to bounce back from hurdles with agility, and how to build meaningful relationships with inspiring humans.
2. Listen to Yourself and Trust Your Intuition
As an immigrant to Canada, I found myself facing so many decisions that I had never experienced before and it often felt paralyzing. However, this is the path you need to pave for yourself when moving to a new country. My methodical side wanted to do endless research, investigate deeper and talk to others. I would spend much of my time being frustrated and worried about the right decision for the future. As I grow older, I find it more effective to start making choices based on how they make me feel. This process stems from trusting myself and past experiences more. When I lean on my intuition, the result often ends up being the right choice for me and makes the process much faster. Without disregarding the rule of research, trusting myself and the unique journey I embarked on has helped find the equilibrium between being quick to make great calls and spending time on research before making decisions.
After being laid off from the startup in 2019, I took a break to recover and reflect. I committed to finding a job that feels right to me beyond the typical materialistic criteria I’ve always depended on in the past. I am much happier where I am now; I am surrounded by supportive, humbled and smart individuals. This choice ultimately made me excited every day to do what I love and push my boundaries to grow.
3. You Get What You Give In This World
I had a humble upbringing, my father made an effort to teach me to stay humble. After landing in Canada, my surroundings have made it easier to fall into the trap of entitlement. Quite frankly, feeling entitled acted as a roadblock for my growth and inhibited my inner peace. The more I have given without expectations, the more I have gotten. This has proven to be true in friendships, relationships and my career. Approaching things from a courageous lens and finding a purpose that drives me has brought about unexpected outcomes. At times, I find myself wondering if I deserve what I have gotten as a result. I have learned to separate the pain of the daily effort from the celebration of the rewards.
A friend of mine passed away by suicide earlier this year. I decided to run my first marathon and raise awareness of youth mental health. While this was something I have never done before, all that mattered to me is that I get to speak up about an important issue affecting my community. I raised awareness by speaking up and posting regularly while doing community outreach. To my surprise, many joined me for what was supposed to be a solo run, where we raised a large amount of money by generous humans and made life long meaningful connections.
There are many more ideas that I entertained, but I think it’s wise to focus on the things that matter the most. It has been a hard but beautiful journey, it’s not an end but rather a start to larger dreams and bigger growth. If you are on a similar path, I admire what you are doing. Have faith in yourself and know that you are embarking on something many rather not to face. I am forever grateful to friends and mentors for the support I received. Many saw something in me I failed to see myself. I appreciate you!
If you have thoughts and ideas, I would be happy to connect. Find me @ Baha.tech