The Immigrant Dream: A Struggle To Survive

My memories are foggy.

As an 8-year-old, I hazily see my dad getting up at 5 am, waking me up with the alarm. 
”He’s probably getting some food,” I think in my confused state, and head back to sleep. Later my mom wakes me up, gets me ready, feeds me breakfast, and walks me to school. “Mom, I want to walk alone!” I insist, forever wondering why she smothers me so much.

Nowadays, age has transformed these foggy memories into vivid pictures.

As a child, my parents were the people I looked to for support and guidance, like most kids. We had our phases: from complete reliance to rebellion, and finally, some mutual understanding–though I am still only 22. After moving out of the house for university and studying for four years with limited dependence, time and maturity slowly made me understand something about my parents I never really appreciated as a handholding toddler or a rebellious teenager.

How did they do

No, really.

How did they successfully immigrate to a country as literally and figuratively cold as Canada at 40-something with three kids younger than 15? How–with no vehicle, no viable jobs lined up, and with barely any known contacts–did my family go from living in rented basements in 1997 to owning a detached house by 2004? I’ve come to realize that a story like this is an improbable rise in Western society. Hell, if I was living south of the border, I’d even call it the ‘American Dream’–or should I say, the ‘Immigrant Dream’.

My dad was a successful civil engineer in Nepal and my mom was a stay-at-home housewife who was very reliable and hardworking in her own right. Truthfully, we were rather well off in one of the poorest countries in the world. As my dad likes to now painfully recall, my mom suggested the life altering idea of applying to get into Canada through the immigration points system for a better educational opportunity for her kids.

They did it for us; we had no other reason to be here. As kids of immigrant parents, we never appreciate it. How could we? We aren’t even aware of it most of the time, so selfishly wrapped in our own bubbles while growing up.

With time however, those once foggy recollections started to become clear.

While I slept, my Dad worked 12-hour night shifts at a bottle factory (a successful engineer, mind you), came back home, slept for two hours, and went to take engineering certificate transfer classes at a local college in the morning before heading off to work again.

While I snored, my mom would finish working another shift at 12:30 am at the same bottle factory my dad recently got promoted at. She’d wake me up in the morning, make me breakfast, and drop me off to school because I was an 8-year-old kid in a foreign country with no one to walk with. She’d pick me up at 3 pm, drop me home, and leave for work on the transit bus–we didn’t have a car till eight months after immigrating.

My father worked hard to move up from a factory worker to an entry-level job in his own field, before finally breaking through to get a similar position to what he held in Nepal. He didn’t speak about any of this with me, and neither did my mom. Hardships were not even spoken about till I moved out at 18 and started seeing the difficulties of life firsthand.

My generation needs to appreciate the sacrifice our immigrant parents made for OUR success. Often, some have it even harder than what I described above, and that’s a thought provoking notion. We were fortunate my dad worked his tail off at 46 to make ends meet. Fortunate that my mom accepted she’d have to work 12-hour standing shifts to support us. Most of all, I was fortunate the stress and the struggles were something my parents soldiered through. They persisted because that’s what immigration is about: persistence to get ahead.

If you’re a parent reading this, immigrant or not–communicate with your kids. Discuss the hardships of your life with them, and the adversities you have overcome. As your children, we like to be as proud of you as you are of us. Your child may very well be inspired by your story of triumph and use it as a source of positive motivation, as well as an experience to learn from.

When I fully comprehended the magnitude of my parent’s adversities, they became my primary role models and source of motivation. I wanted to be the best that I could be so their sacrifice for me was not in vain; I wanted to succeed for their sake like they had done for me when I was fast asleep at the age of eight.

I am sure yours will feel the same way; and if they do not understand it now, then they will when time and maturity prevail.

By Gaurav Pokharel  



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  • Very well written. The problem is, for children, it is difficult to fathom the real life hardships with verbal explanation at that age. I agree about the need for communication though. If I had a second chance, I would rather stay back home than immigrating to a new country. I think it is more of a cultural and personal loss than the material/educational gains that we come up with.

  • Reality is completly different on what we assume all the time. This is very motivating & inspiring. The sacrifice of leaving an excellent job for sake of children education is truly an attribute credited to parents. Life we succeed is because of sacrifice by others..