“It’s funny that our visions became clear in the year 2020,” said Wali Shah, a spoken-word poet and Keynote Speaker at First Work’s Aspire Youth Summit.

Although COVID-19 has physically forced us to stay inside, as Wali pointed out, one positive is that it has also forced us to spend a lot of time working on ourselves.  It’s human to fall victim to focusing on all the negatives surrounding us at this time that we forget to notice all the good.

I know this struggle because I was in that exact situation for months when we first went into lockdown.

Don’t get me wrong – at first, the student side of me doing a double major was relieved because, Finally! I get a break and I can work from home in my pjs. But this quickly became, “what do I do with my time and life now?” I was frustrated for many months without my usual community involvement and the fact that I wasn’t growing professionally, let alone knowing what my next steps would be.

Then I remembered, it’s all about perspective.

What you think, you create.

What you feel, you attract.

And what you imagine, you become.

Growing up, I rarely saw myself being represented in the media or even the community in general. I am not only a Black woman, but I’m also a visible and proud Muslim, so I know how us hijabi girls are constantly underestimated by society. So when I came across the opportunity to join the First Work Youth Council, I hesitated to apply for many reasons, but mostly, I was questioning my own abilities. Would I even make it to the interview process with so much competition throughout the province?

Representation Matters

Everything can be put into perspective, though, particularly if you stay away from focusing on the negative. So I reminded myself of two things: first, I am capable of making a positive impact for other youth. Second, there’s probably a lot of young people similarly capable but hesitant to put themselves forward.  My motivation then became, “If not me, then who?” I realized that in taking a step forward for myself, I could help other youth struggling to grow during this time of crisis.

That’s why I think it’s important to not be afraid to wear that crown – or whatever sets you apart – with pride while conquering all your goals. Little Amira would have loved to see representation like me in her time, but I hope this speaks to and motivates other young girls to push themselves to the highest extent possible.

Small Steps for Empowerment

Being accepted to First Work’s Youth Council greatly empowered me and gave me the confidence to push my boundaries even further – by applying to be a part of the executive team. My newfound confidence and successful application to be Secretary (!) led to a speaking opportunity alongside an MP at the Aspire Youth Summit. Speaking alongside the amazing MP Adam van Koeverden was such an honor. His words of wisdom inspired the crowd while he radiated energy that made the impossible seem possible.

Through this experience, I learned that fear will always hold you back from growth if you stay confined within it. Growing into the professional you want to be takes time, but those small steps eventually lead to bigger opportunities. Small steps such as going to the Aspire Youth Summit or other events that allow you to network, explore new career paths, and learn how to advocate for your passions.

Progress is Progress

This virtual world is tough to navigate, and we’re all learning how to stand out and better ourselves in this new normal. Remember to always push yourself a little bit more then you did the day before…Progress is progress no matter how small.

Published On: February 4th, 2021 / Categories: COVID-19, Life Advice /