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Muna – Then and Now

This is it! We’ve come to the end of our HERstory blog posts. First of all, I want to thank all the ladies who helped me with this project. Thanks for your time and your honesty – it’s been great getting to know all of you that much better. I certainly have some amazing friends. 

Our last post comes from my friend Muna, yet another Chapters buddy. Her post is the one that resonated the most with me. As you will see below, Muna considers herself to be a Third Culture Kid. I only just discovered what this means, and I found that that’s how I identify as well. My dad is british, my mum is French canadian. I grew up in a Québec (which comes with it’s own cultural challenges, related to my being half English) and I’ve also lived in a lot of other countries, making it difficult for me to identify with any one nationality. Sure, I call myself Canadian, that’s easy. But it’s not quite true, and that’s not where my whole heart is.

Anyway! On to Muna’s story! After she sent it to me, she followed up with this message:

“I was thinking a lot about how much of my identity is Canadian, and for the past couple of months my feelings lean towards that I don’t really feel Canadian. I didn’t say this out loud to myself and I think the blog helped me come to terms with it. No matter how hard I tried in the past, I never felt like this is home. I have a Canadian passport and that’s probably the only thing that can define me as Canadian. I don’t know if you still want to use my post since it’s about Canadians. What do you think? I really don’t mind if you want to find someone else. I just feel a bit contradictory having a post about being Canadian when I haven’t felt it for 17 years. Let me know”

Of course I accepted her blog post – the original story was supposed to represent Canadian women, or at least the women that make Canada. And hers is such an interesting story, how could I not publish it! Make sure to read right down to the end – #6 is super.


1.    If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

Muna Egeh: Then and Now

2.    Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I come from many places. I am Somali by blood and culture, but I was born in Abu Dhabi, UAE. I came to Ottawa, Canada, at the age of 12 and I’ve been here ever since! This summer will mark my 17th year.

The places my parents and I come from shaped my life in many ways. I do feel different than most Canadians, and I have often struggled with identity. Although my parents identify themselves to be Somali, my mother was born in Yemen and my father was born in Somalia; both were raised in Yemen. So I have what now I believe to be “Third Culture Kid Identity” which I have recently learned about from a short documentary on Vimeo. http://vimeo.com/41264088
If your average Somali (assuming they were born and raised in Somalia) came to my home, they would be surprised to learn that we speak Arabic and English in our house. We don’t even know many of the cultural practices; i.e. dance and poetry, which are staples of being Somali. But when your average Canadian comes over to my house, they will instantly feel that we aren’t a typical Canadian family. To be honest, I struggle with the Canadian identity much more. I’m not sure I’ve ever understood what it is to feel unequivocally Canadian.
A big part of my life was spent in the UAE, and I do have warm feelings towards the place I once called home, but I always knew it wasn’t going to be permanent. Emiratis believe that their land is an ancestral land, so any foreigners or first generations know that their time in the UAE is most likely limited.

3.    Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I am based in Ottawa, but I’m also a resident of Toronto. I come here often because it facilitates my future in filmmaking. I lived in Ottawa for many years, but unfortunately, I haven’t found it to be the place for me. The makeup of the city is very government-oriented and even the career positions offered are mostly government-related. So I decided to make my way to Toronto to help me with what I love the most, films!

4.    What is your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement must be leaving the accounting profession behind and finding work in places that I find incredibly satisfying. I majored in Accounting in university and found working with tax and auditing in an office all by myself with minimal human interaction to be very draining. I didn’t like calling people to let them know they owe the government more money or that they are being audited. It put me in a really bad place for the duration of my accounting career. I decided to move on to do something I’ve never done but always thought about, and that was traveling! I decided the best way to do this is to take International Management as my second major, and travel through my exchange semester. I ended up doing the exchange in Reims, France, and through that exchange I was able to travel to eight countries, one of which was Egypt!
Leaving accounting behind helped me to truly find what I enjoy doing the most. I loved reading, so I worked at a bookstore, which was the best work experience I’ve ever had. I had time to think of what my future will hold, and I had the courage to finally pursue filmmaking as my new career! I’m happy to share that I have completed my first short film and I hope to share it with you in a few months!

5.    What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

I used to regret going into the field of accounting, but as cliché as it might sound, I no longer believe in mistakes. Everyone takes a different route to get to their ultimate destination. I am thankful to God that I have the chance to realize what I love and work towards it everyday.
The only thing I fear is not being honest with others or myself. I try my best to take actions that I believe in 100 percent, otherwise it gets me down.

6.    What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

I was bullied in middle school for many reasons and not speaking English was one of them. I was new to the country and where I came from (I went to an all girl school) bullying was pretty much unheard of! We were all friends and others stand by you if anyone tried to get you down. So when I came here, it was a bitter reality. I didn’t know how to cope and I didn’t tell my family because I thought it was extremely shameful. Not to get into details, but it gotten to the point that I didn’t even want to take the school bus and I had many lates/abscenes written to my name. Thankfully, I had made new friends in high school and I was able to ward off the unwarranted attention. But sometimes I look back to that time and I seriously think it’s a societal problem. I can only describe it as being emotionally assassinated, and I don’t think that it’s being taken seriously.
I wish I could give kids a handbook on how to survive bullying, but you really can’t survive it without others’ help. Why are kids not standing up for others that are being bullied? There is no compassion in schools and that is what is missing. I follow the Muslim teaching of “Love for your brother what you love for yourself,” and I think this is missing in our society. Generosity and kindness even in emotional aspects are missing, and we need to bring this to be the foundation of who we are as human beings.
My only advice to everyone who faces bullying is to stand your ground. It is hard and it might feel like a mountain, but please, be strong. It was never your fault, and don’t feel like you brought this on yourself. Bullies aren’t stronger than you; it is you who they fear so they choose your kindness and beautiful demeanor to destroy what they do not value. You exist outside of a small classroom; so don’t feel like it is the end of your journey. The journey has just begun.
When it comes to struggling with identity, it is only normal and you won’t shake that feeling for years. You can only hope it gets easier. Do not focus so much on your identity as much as focusing on being a kind, generous, compassionate, loving and curious individual. These things make life a beautiful place to live in no matter how strongly you believe in your identity. Experiences show you who you are. So start having as many courage filled experiences as you can, and make sure you do them for you and others around because your actions may be a beautiful impression on someone else!

7.    What’s next?

What I hope to be next for me is gaining many fun-filled and rewarding experiences through filmmaking. I am interested in people, and I love connecting with others as much as I can. So if I can bring the beauty of others to the screen, then I have lived a full life.

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I wanted to tell a story

This week, I was invited to be a guest blogger for a blogging carnival run by a canadian organization called kickaction.ca. Kickaction is an online community of young women acting for social change across Canada.

There were three themes to choose from, and I decided to go with HERstory. Check out their website to read everyone else’s contributions over the next three weeks. Below is my original text, and in the coming days, I will be posting more of these directly on here.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I wanted to tell a story, HER story to be exact. I spent some time thinking about who would make a good storyteller, which woman would want to share her life with us. It wasn’t long before I realized we all have a story, so I decided to make this a Canadian HERstory. During my cross-country meanderings, I asked women from British Columbia to Newfoundland to answer a series of questions.

The whole purpose of this post is to show that we all have deep and varied histories, but we all have similar struggles and dreams. The original plan was to come up with a blog post that synthesized all of their stories into one, a Canadian HERstory of sorts. It turns out that ultimately, these stories are too rich, these experiences too varied, and these ladies too insightful, to be reduced to one tale. I’ve decided to merge the answers into one voice for the purpose of this blog post, and it broke my heart to have to shorten these answers – these women are genius. Make sure to check out my own blog in the coming days, as I will be posting each woman’s individual HERstory at WHERESALEX.WORDPRESS.COM

1. Where are you from, and how has it shaped your life?

Newfoundland. Ontario. Somalia. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Northern France. Saskatchewan. Québec. New Brunswick. Prince Edward Island. British Columbia. Not really “from” anywhere.

How can where you’re from not shape your life?! You are the sum of your experiences. And experiences depend a lot on where you live.

At the age of 19, I left all I knew and moved to Québec to learn French and start MY life. I became independent at an early age. I have always felt a little ‘different’. This has helped me stay strong during tough times.

The places my parents and I come from shaped my life in many ways. To be honest, I struggle with the Canadian identity.

I grew up in an isolated French community where people had to fight not only for survival but also for services. Transpires in everything that I do and am. I’m a fighter.

I was born in Northern France, in a city where unemployment, immigration and alcoholism are sky rocketing, and it gave me only one goal in life, get out of it… And I did!

I am from a province full of individuals who appreciate every little thing.  They see blessings in everyday occurrences.  This is the kind of person I want to be. This is the kind of life I want to live.

2.     What is your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement to date is remaining positive and curious about life despite the hardships I have encountered.

Graduating university. I really didn’t think I was gonna make it through.

Great is living your life to the best of your abilities and, in the process, not ever willfully doing something to hurt another person. Humans aren’t perfect and spending a life trying to achieve perfection is futile. Just do the best you can and be honest with others and yourself.

My children! (Interesting – every responder who has kids has named their kids as their greatest achievement)

Being able to get away from really toxic family history and making a better life for myself.

I’m 28! Give me a break! I’m only starting to figure out life… And you’re asking me what my greatest achievement is? I don’t like this question! Living in itself is an achievement. Putting one foot in front of the other. Not giving up. Fighting. Being out there. Trying to figure out what to do with one’s life. I guess that’s what I’ve achieved so far!

The fact that I’ve been married to my husband for over 31 years.

This summer I hiked for one month in Vermont. I was completely unprepared.  But I did it.  And I kept doing it.

3.     What is your greatest regret?

My greatest regret is forgetting to put myself first.

That I started smoking cigarettes when I was 16 and have struggled with quitting, so far unsuccessful after many attempts, for most of my life.

I no longer believe in mistakes. Everyone takes a different route to get to their ultimate destination.

I’m learning now that one of the hardest things anyone can ever face is making the decision to try harder or walk away.

Although I try my hardest to live without regret, I definitely give myself a mental kick in the pants every once and a while for not spending more quality time with my father. I imagine almost every person who loses a parent feels that way.

Greatest regret? I have no regrets. There are some things that I’d probably do differently if I’d known then what I know now, of course. Regrets are negative energy that pull you back. What many people carry as regrets, I try to learn from and move forward.

4.     What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

Believe in yourself. That is the starting point. This is the best advice I can give. It’s not always easy, but if you can get up in the morning, say these words and believe them, all will be okay. Don’t let others put you down or make you feel worthless because they are wrong.

Be what you want to be, and go where you want to go. If doing so means certain people will stop caring about you, good! You’ll find real friends along the way, trust me.

Be strong. I know that it’s not easy, but so many beautiful things are in your future. Find someone you trust, and talk to them. It’ll take time for you to find who you are, be patient and gentle with yourself. You have more to offer than you will ever know.

My mother said it to me, and I will say it to you now that I am 60: do not waste your precious, vital, young energy worrying about how you look! Adjusting your unique look, personality, interests to fit in with how others think you should be, just makes you an anonymous sheep in the flock. Stay true to yourself. The world needs those individuals who know who they are and appreciate their unique individuality.

I wish I could give kids a handbook on how to survive bullying, but you really can’t survive it without others’ help. My only advice to everyone who faces bullying is to stand your ground. It is hard and it might feel like a mountain, but please, be strong. It was never your fault, and don’t feel like you brought this on yourself. You exist outside of a small classroom; so don’t feel like it is the end of your journey. The journey has just begun.

Boy, do we all want to fit it. We all want to be normal. Skinny. Beautiful. Smart. Lovable. Perfect. Truth is, we’re all flawed. Because we’re all human. With time, you learn to choose where you want to fit in. What you are willing to compromise to fit in. You choose your friends more wisely. And you slowly learn to accept that you can’t please everyone.

You’re beautiful just the way you are. Surround yourself with nice people and positive people that see the real you.

Find an activity where it’s hard to lie to yourself, where you feel so much like yourself, you can’t pretend to be anyone else. If you need to know who you are, if you need to figure out where you are going, if you need to make a decision or come to terms with something, put yourself in your own “lie-less” situation and there is no other option than to let the truth come to the surface.

I know it probably seems unbearable right now, and that it will take forever, but it will pass. Growing older is the best thing that happens to mankind.

Many people do not know who they are or what their passion could possibly be. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find answers to these questions, just keep moving forward. Find something that appeals to you and do it.  Do it unashamedly.

You are beautiful and perfect. Try to be brave and don’t let other people make you feel bad about yourself. Things will get better, they did for me. Make the best choices you can, based on what you know and feel and try not to regret those choices in the future.

With the risk of sounding cliche/like your mother, it really does get better.

You already are a person, important and unique. Be who you are, truly, and you will become an amazing woman. Respect who others are also, and do not judge. DO NOT tolerate injustice done to you or to others. Speak up for others.