parents and older siblings are first generation immigrants. I am the first
natural-born Canadian in my family. I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in
a small bungalow. My parents would be considered uneducated, but I learned my
most valuable lessons from them:
have to work with your head or your hands (said to me when choosing a career
me this last lesson is the most important. Creativity is not easily taught.
Creativity is a way of seeing possibilities in the world around you that others
do not see. My father had trained as a carpenter in Poland. When he looked at
scraps of wood, he saw the useful objects that could be built, with the vision
of an engineer. After his death, I found pictures for designs he had drawn in
his eighties. He was always seeking to create something new, from the world
mother had trained as a seamstress in Germany. She made my wedding dress when I
got married. Many times, I witnessed the process of creation through her
sewing, knitting, baking and cooking. Growing up and regularly seeing objects
seemingly appear out of nothing, one could not help but look at the world with
more open and creative eyes. Although I did not grow up with lots of things, I
learned I could make the things I wanted. Looking back, I had a very rich
one thing my parents could not give me was money for university. For that, I
knew I had to be self-reliant. I either had to work part-time to make the money
myself or get scholarship money. I almost did not go to university. I wanted to
be practical and get a college diploma in Medical Lab Technology. Fate
intervened and I got an entrance scholarship to attend university.
high school, I experienced the gender gap, which made me question if I was
emotionally strong enough to be a ‘girl in science’. In university, I
experienced the money gap. I was the girl who grew up on the wrong side of the
tracks. The girl who lived near the steel mills. The girl whose mother made her
clothes. The girl who had to work part-time and earn her own money. I felt poor
for the first time in my life because that is how others saw me.
confidence was further eroded by the professors and graduate students at the
university. I had never met these types of people before. They had never been a
part of my world. They spoke another language. They were so intelligent. They
seemed impossibly perfect. I was in awe and fear of them.
I now realize the most important problem with the money gap is not
money. Money can always be obtained through other means. What is truly missing
are the experiences from that lifestyle. Think about doing something that seems
impossible to you. Part of the reason it feels impossible is that you have no
experience of it and probably don’t know anyone else who has experienced it.
Familiar things are comfortable because… well… they are familiar.
Occupations are like that too. If you grow up with doctors, lawyers, professors
and scientists in your life, those occupations become familiar and less
intimidating. You see these people as regular and imperfect people, trying
their best. I know that now, but during university I was a stranger in a
strange land, and did not know if I would ever feel like I belonged.