In 2006, my father died of liver failure after battling Hepatitis-C. Before his passing, he was the sole earner in my family and worked as a computer programmer. My parents immigrated to Toronto from Pakistan to have a better life. But after his death, all my mom had left was two small children, a mortgage, no job, no family in this country, and $200 in her pocket. He also left us with no life insurance.
After his death my mother found work at a local coffee shop, typically working 12-16 hour shifts. My sister and I took care of ourselves while mom was at work, but it didn’t bother us that we never ate out or could afford new clothes. We knew our mom was doing everything she could for us, and all that mattered now was us working hard so we would no longer struggle to survive.
School was the only stable thing in my life, and I was good at it. I was on the debate team all through high school and dreamt of going to Harvard law school. I even graduated high school with a 93% average. But after attending one info session, I knew my family could not afford it and I would have to save up myself if I wanted to go. I would be there today if my dad had left us life insurance.
When I was 15 I found part-time work at a restaurant to save up, where I would make sure to pick up coworkers’ shifts so I could work full-time hours. I was also offered a paid full-time co-op at a bank, where I worked from 8am-3pm and then 5pm until midnight at the restaurant. When I was 16, I was sexually assaulted by another employee at the restaurant. I allowed the abuse to continue for months, scared I would lose my job and dream of going to an ivy league. When I finally reported the abuse to management, I was told that I would never get into an ivy league so I should just quit now. I was then forced to quit and ended up in a psychiatric hospital after battling PTSD and depression.
I decided to attend UBC because tuition was cheaper than schools in Ontario. I am pursuing an honours degree in philosophy and have a 4.7 GPA. I plan on going to law school so I can get justice for those like myself who have experienced sexual violence.
Throughout my degree, I have worked part-time jobs and also worked full-time for 1.5 years while taking full-time courses. I’ve learned what it means to live paycheck to paycheck, to make weekly food bank visits, to max out all my credit cards, and today have -$200 in my bank account. Despite this, I know I will one day be able to give my mother, myself, and my sister the life we should have had if my father had adequately planned for our future rather than leaving us with nothing.