While most individuals have a specific object, activity or person they can point to, it is my staunchly held belief that it was what I did not possess or experience that inevitably guided the formation of my character. The poverty my family was entrenched in for the majority of my life—after we had become refugees from civil war and rebellion in Uzbekistan—was the guiding factor in how I would lead my life. As a child, I was like most ordinary children: wide eyed, inquisitive, and ever-so-trusting in the goodness of people in general. Yet after 1992 (the year I arrived in Canada with my family), I began the retreat into the individual I am today. The journey from that moment on, which at every step was abundant with the bittersweet, had a profound effect on my character in that, to my very fibre, it endowed me with traits of pessimism, empathy and ambition.
Though I continuously attempt not to betray my most sincere efforts to conceal this flaw, to begin my character analysis on pessimism only makes sense as this trait gives birth, in natural procession, to the aforementioned others that I possess. Being a pessimist is not something one holds in pride, neither is it something, I believe, one should be disingenuous about. To always be prepared for—no, to expect the worst is a survival mechanism that I have acquired over the years dealing with countless disappointments and setbacks. My parents sacrificed much of their lives and futures in hopes of their children being raised in the greatest country they had heard of. Children do not necessarily need financial wealth to feel secure but emotional wealth is essential. My mother battled with culture shock and severe bouts of depression throughout a large majority of my life. My father has worked, on average, fourteen hours a day without a real vacation or significant day off for the past eighteen years. In my eyes, although my siblings and I had, my parents never truly attempted to become fully assimilated into the society of the greatest country they had ever heard of. To a child who only wanted the feeling of normalcy to return, the hypocrisy of their dichotomous stance—being in Canada, yet seemingly regretting and hating the differences (moral, societal, etc.) of their surroundings only played in dissonance before my eyes. They were too busy and preoccupied to create the supportive environment their children were so parched for. It made me realize although there are good intentions in an action, endeavour or event, one should always brace himself for disappointment for the off-chance that what tends to happen, will: the best laid plans will oft go awry.
I often feel grateful for being allowed to cultivate my understanding of the effects of what most people will call luck. The seeming chance of my life and how it turned out gave me the belief that most people, if not all, do not have exactly what they want in their lives. People have told me I possess a rare sensitivity (or insight) of situations and the people that I know and encounter. Although it is a flattering characterization, I believe it stems from the understanding that most variables that people attempt to overcome are ones that they truly have no controls over: family, situational circumstance, financial hindrance, and many others. I have experienced all, and I feel empathy for people that seem to be mired in the same. I also gained understanding of individuals who have been blessed with the lack of such obstacles. Instead of jealousy and contempt, I feel there is a certain honour that one gains from being one of the have-nots.
One is not defined by his circumstances but by what one does in the midst of them. There is a burning ambition that comes with being deprived of material and emotional foundation. I have to admit that I am not exempt from this drive. Although I have dabbled with pity and self-sabotage, I have acquired a need for constant inquiry. I absolutely love to learn, and when I want to do something and truly put my mind to it, I complete it fully or not at all; mediocrity is something that I do not tolerate in the things I do. The lack of substantive possessions throughout my life gave me this sense that I need to catch up and more than make up for what I missed. I want to be the best that I can be, and this ambition is clearly driven fully by my insecurities.
Here I sit, pessimistic, empathic, and ambitious, knowing full well these traits would have been naught but vapours if poverty had not imposed itself on my family and me. While it is true that I’ve been cultivated by what most would call inferior circumstances, each single detail is the sum of an always greater whole; this journey made me who I am today. I cannot foresee myself not possessing these facets of character nor do I regret the journey which led me to acquire them. Upon careful scrutiny, I can honestly affirm that these traits are qualities I would not trade for any of the riches in the world.