Long before I migrated to Canada, I had a blog that I decently updated, and by decently, I mean every two or three weeks. I remember a post I wrote about being resilient. In that blog entry, I mostly talked about heartbreak over a lover that had cheated on me with a friend, and about all the people who laughed and gossiped about it. That situation called for a show of some resilience when I had to endure it and just keep living my life. While that small event felt like it taught me to be resilient, migration actually teaches me the true meaning of the word.

I talked to my boyfriend last night about the things I hated the most about being a migrant worker. I'm thankful he was willing to listen because I have kept it all in for a prolonged period and it is rearing its ugly head already. (Also, am thankful he listened because not a lot of people want to hear anything I have to say about oppression in the immigration system.)

It's hard not to be descriptive about my situation but I'll try to keep it short today. Basically, a migrant worker in Canada has little to no rights. Where a local nanny can leave and quit to find a new job, a migrant simply cannot. She is tied to one specific employer and her immigration status depends on her being employed to one person only. If she quits of loses her job, she cannot immediately work for a new boss. Therefore, a migrant nanny or caregiver depends on always being on her boss' good side and this is where it gets really problematic.

This gives the employer so much power and leverage over a foreign worker and it leads to abuse and exploitation. Of course, a migrant worker is free to verbalize her needs or requests, but that puts her at risk of getting on the employer's bad side. This is a common theme for almost all foreign nannies and caregivers. They get asked to do more and more work without proper compensation or rest period. They get asked to perform work beyond their contracts. And honestly, those contracts aren't honoured at all because this immigration/work stream is so deregulated. Nobody checks in to make sure the employment standards are being met in private homes.

 How do I know this? Well, I lost my job asserting my rights about two years ago. That still haunts me. It taught me to just shut up and suck it up when I don't feel okay at work sometimes.

Anyway, that's just one aspect of my compounded situation. I feel stretched to my limit. I've been separated for far too long from my daughter. Monetary responsibilities give me anxiety constantly. Repetitive and mundane tasks at work feel like it gets me nowhere in life. And yet I have to keep going. I have no other option. Even getting anxiety or burned out is not an option. It's just not!

And so this brings me back to the word resilience. I guess that's what it means-- suck it up and keep going. It feels like the whole world depends on you. 

Hessed Torres Comments
Sleepless in Vancouver

It was August 2017 when my sleeping pattern began to change drastically. At first, I thought it was just one of my usual "midnight owl" phases where I get really creative and paint, write, or sing 'til I get sleepy. But then, two weeks past, my 1:00ams became 3:00ams, which quickly became 5:00ams during a work night. I was not sleeping... And sadly, I have not slept well for about two and a half months.

About two weeks ago, I began feeling anxious and felt weird palpitations and difficulty of breathing. That week of restlessness and sleep deprivation was when I experienced a real panic attack. I broke down with uncontrollable sobbing at work. And as if things couldn't get worse, my father dies two weeks later.

These recent events forced me to rethink not only my goals as a migrant worker but the living and working conditions of foreign workers that predisposes us anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illnesses. Being a migrant worker sucks. Family separation, isolation, exploitation, financial responsibilities and debt are just some of the things I worry about on a daily basis.

I've tried yoga and other physical activities but even that gave me a little bit of anxiety. Self-care can get really pricey. But the people who need it the most are those below the poverty line. What a huge WTF.

So, to many more sleepless nights, to abused migrant workers (and refugees who have it worst), to empty pockets and bellies, and to comrades fighting for a better society, I offer this blog as a window to the daily blows of being a migrant woman of color. I hope that sharing bits and pieces of my daily struggles will be relatable for others trying to roll with the punches.

Hessed TorresComment