I put on my best nervous smile and answered their questions until the Executive Director of the University Registrar asked me, “Samra, what is it in you that makes you overcome these challenges rather than get overwhelmed by them as most people would? How come you don’t give up?”
All attempts to meticulously plan my responses flew out the window and I answered with moist eyes and brutal honesty, “Sir, it is not that I don’t give up. Countless times I feel like I can’t do it. I feel weak, overwhelmed and demotivated. But then, there’s a tiny voice in me that tells me to get up and go on. If I don’t respect my own self, how will anyone else?”
After becoming a teen bride and mother without even completing high school, I thought my dream of getting an education was forever broken. Sitting in the back seat of my husband’s car as he drove past UTM I would stare longingly at the signage with the graduation hat wondering if I would ever wear one. I couldn’t go to high school so I finished the required courses through distance learning and applied to university year after year. When I couldn’t get OSAP I worked as a babysitter and tutor to save money for tuition and childcare. When I was left with no support, I juggled three jobs, a full time course load and raised two young children. Every day I would wonder if there really was a light at the end of the tunnel - yet I somehow found the strength to keep going. That strength exists in all of us. We just have to find it.
For me, it was my faith in God and my love for my children. When I would come home after a long tiring day and my daughters would run toward me happily, I just knew I had to keep going – for them. What is that one thing in your life that gives you that happiness? Find that and use it as your strength. Remember, no matter how bad we may have it there are millions out there who have it much worse. That belief was reinforced for me when I was working with students with disabilities during my volunteer work. I was mesmerized by a blind 65 year old student with a hearing aid and in a wheelchair completing her degree with high distinction. Two months ago, she graduated with me. So what do I have to complain about? If you want something bad enough and work for it hard enough, God will help you and you will find support in places you never dreamed of.
There is a solution to every problem – you just need to think outside the box. Believe in yourself, even if no one else will. Do not let anyone disrespect you and belittle your dreams. The only real failure is not trying. Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled and keep your eyes on your final goal. Who knows - you may even surpass it! I never dreamed I would get so much recognition, awards and support. I had all the disadvantages a girl could have so if I can do it, anyone can. My goal was to get a stellar education. Today I have that and so much more.
Remember, no one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them.
This blog post has been written by Samra Zafar. Click here to learn more about Samra.