Lib­er­a­tion Be­yond Cir­cum­stance

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Kayra Wil­liams

My most vivid rec­ol­lec­tion is of her danc­ing on a ta­ble in the party room of a friend’s condo. It was her birth­day, and the drinks were flow­ing. I didn’t know her well then, but I’d seen her around a few times, and al­ways some­thing about her gripped me. I knew im­me­di­ately she wasn’t the typ­i­cal city girl from Toronto, and not far into our in­ter­ac­tions she re­vealed that she was born in Iran and had only moved to Canada a few years prior.

Just be­fore I moved back to Saint Lu­cia we re­con­nected on so­cial me­dia. It was there I dis­cov­ered more of the per­son that she was, an ESL teacher who wanted to do more than just fa­mil­iar­ize her stu­dents with a lan­guage dif­fer­ent from their own. Al­most ev­ery day she made a point of reaching out to her stu­dents on Facebook, most of whom were im­mi­grants them­selves, to share in­spi­ra­tion and hope. De­pres­sion and sui­cide rates ran high in the city, par­tic­u­larly among young peo­ple, and quite a few times I saw her re­mind­ing them that she was avail­able to meet if ever they felt alone, or if they just needed some­one to talk to. All the time stu­dents replied to her posts thank­ing her for be­ing true to her word, and for be­ing an ab­so­lute rar­ity in a city that moved much too fast to stop and think about the more vul­ner­a­ble.

Over time, she shared more and more of her story. How life had been as an im­mi­grant from a Third World coun­try, and the kind of bat­tles im­mi­grants face ev­ery day. In par­tic­u­lar, she talked about how tough was life for women in Iran.

So­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tions were that she would live with her par­ents un­til she got mar­ried. She was ex­pected to get an ed­u­ca­tion of some sort, but still keep a low pro­file, not dat­ing many (or any at all!) guys un­til, in her words, “some­how mag­i­cally the right man who had a good job, fam­ily, and could af­ford to buy a house would come.”

“He’d ex­pect me to cook for him ev­ery day,” she added. “And keep the house clean, lis­ten to him vent with­out judg­ing him, get along with his hyp­o­crit­i­cal mother and sis­ter, not pur­sue any ca­reer goals, and have his ba­bies.”

That, in her words, was the woman she had re­fused to be. “I’m glad I didn’t,” she said. “I was brave enough to fight against the odds and smart enough not to be poi­soned by that mind­set.” In­stead she wore ripped jeans, turned up the vol­ume in her car, started work­ing at the age of 19, which was her way of re­belling against the norm. She lived out loud, and pur­posely so. She had a boyfriend with­out need­ing to lie to her par­ents, fol­lowed her dreams, and left the world as she had known it be­hind.

Point of the story? She re­sisted, grew and changed in rev­o­lu­tion­ary fash­ion. She be­came a teacher. She al­lowed her dreams the pos­si­bil­ity to ex­ist even if they felt, at times, re­mote and un­re­al­is­tic. Her life be­gan to em­body a sort of free­dom that had pre­vi­ously been de­nied her. She went out with friends, she par­tied, she danced pool­side in a bikini. Most of all, she im­pacted lives. She proved in the way that oth­ers be­fore her had, that cir­cum­stances don’t have to dic­tate the di­rec­tion of your life; only what you choose to do about it can.

Free­dom means some­thing dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one.

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