Where did you see yourself at 24-year-old? I’ll tell you where I didn’t expect to be at 23, pregnant, planning a wedding and living across the world from the closest people to me; my mom and brother. Like all things we plan and hope for, life did not go accordingly, but before I get ahead of myself let me tell you more about my story.
I was born in Luanda, Angola, for those unsure where that is, its a country in the south of Africa just above Namibia. Due to some life occurrences, too complicated to discuss here, at 8 years old my mom decided to move us (my brother and I) to Canada. The next 16 years in Canada were a bit of a blur, I had to learn a new language, new culture, make new friends, and mature in a society that later on I would consider my own. The goals and dreams I created for my life professionally, romantically and personally, were ones based on what I was exposed to, living in a developed country with access to just about everything. It was a great privilege, which I discovered much later on. I finished University at 21.5 years old, yes the .5 is necessary because I am a December baby, with a degree in Environmental Science, with great prospects for starting my career. I had planned in my mind that I would work, organize myself, date and get married by 27 and a year later start a family, meanwhile traveling as much an I could. What a great dream, right? Once I graduated, we (mom and I) decided it would be best for me to move back home to gain some work experience to then later return to Canada and work some more. Things didn’t go quite as planned, once I arrived in Luanda, it was a definite culture shock, the lack of social conditions, infrastructure, and overall the way of life and thinking of the local people took a while to get used to. After 3 months in Luanda, I was blessed with a job in HR, as a fromTraining and Development Coordinator. Goal number one not achieved, or so I thought. Working is where I met my now husband, he began to show me around the city, teaching me more about the culture, and patiently correcting my then terrible Portuguese (official local language). After a year a half of dating, I found out I was pregnant, goal number two not achieved, or so I thought. Something you should know is that here in Angola, once you become pregnant, culturally you must marry the man. So here I was 23, pregnant, planning a wedding and living miles away from my core family. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility that I knew I was about to face. I got married at 7 months pregnant, and a month after I went to Canada to give birth to my son. So, to resume, I am a newlywed, a new mother, and was about to return to my new home living in an environment I was still trying to adapt to, which was goal number three not achieved, or so I thought. About 3 months after having my son, I reunited with my husband in Luanda, where the largest dose of reality was waiting for me. In a few months time, I would have to juggle being a wife, a mother and working full time, essentially, it was not easy. Let me disclaim firstly that my husband is wonderful and helps out as much as he can, but he was also raised in a culture where men don’t usually do much to help in the home or with the daily duties with their kids. According to my dream, I had managed to go off track and not follow any of the ideas I had set for myself. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that it created a lot of internal conflict, where on one hand I was feeling blessed for my healthy beautiful baby and my caring dedicated husband, but on the other hand I felt sad because of all the pressure I had put on myself based on my plans and ideas of success which made me feel like a failure.
Until this day I struggle sometimes with what my current reality is, maybe because of my feelings of not being as achieved as I had planned, or maybe because I am sleep deprived of breastfeeding during the night, most likely its a combination, but it is a daily conscious decision to not look back. The best part of how my life is right now is that I noticed that, as much as I like to think I should have been more accomplished and I would have done much more living in Canada, single and without a baby, that’s not actually the truth. Now, I feel a certain motivation, drive, strength, empowerment, than I ever did living in the wonderfully developed, opportunity-filled country as a young University graduate. I am filled with ideas, new hopes, new dreams and new goals, all of this because my life took a turn I never planned on.
So, what’s the takeaway, my dear millennial graduates? Its good to have hopes and dreams and goals and you should strive to achieve them all, but what’s even more important is to be flexible. Accept that not everything will go accordingly, and that is okay because they can go even better. Be kind to yourself as you chase your happiness, be kind to yourself, and most importantly, be open to new situations and challenges, because you never know where it might take you.
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