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Bittersweet Freedom

Time 0:02:36


Here I was riding a bike for my first time at 16… falling, getting back up. I wanted to be able to ride a bike like everyone else. Growing up in a small knit cultural & religious community in Ontario, everyone knows what you’re up to ALL the time, so basically my whole community knew that I was learning to ride a bike, but no one understood why.

I loved being a kid back home; I played out in the streets with children in the neighborhood. My parents, brother and I were happy, and my days were filled with laughter. I immigrated to Canada from Egypt with my parents and my older brother when I was 5 years old. I was told by my family that we were going to have a better life, like those of the movies.

Once I started school that’s when I started realizing a difference. I was placed in an ESL class, I dressed differently, and what I brought for lunch was different. When my dad was living in Egypt, he was so laid back, loved taking pictures, wrote his own poetry and had the best sense of humor always making everyone laugh. Coming to Canada changed all of that…. Reality is many immigrants become more attached to their culture and religion when they are forced to adapt to a new environment. His faith in his religion grew stronger than ever before. He worked day and night to provide for us, not realizing that I needed something different.

As a kid I hated that I wasn’t able to do all the things my friends at school did. I started to hate Canada, and the stupid idea that Canada was like the movies. I didn’t understand why we came here if we weren’t going to live like everyone else. The lines between my culture at home and Canadian society were so bold and rigid.

Learning to ride a bike represented freedom – finally getting that back. Through rebelling I experienced a lot – met different people, saw different things. But after a while, I realized that my parents are not replaceable. I’m not going to find anybody that cares about me as unconditionally as they do. Now that I’m older I understand my parents struggle more and I appreciate them for trying. If only they knew they didn’t have to try so hard and that I didn’t have to miss out on so much. I’m in a good place and I feel like I belong somewhere. I take from what my parents taught me, my culture and religion, and also some of the things I appreciate about Canada. Discovering things on my own has helped me get there.

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