Circle of Life
Rana Demir’s life has moved in circles. In Turkey, she leaves nursing school to study Islam, despite her parents’ objections. She marries and has three children, another circle that leads her back to finish her nursing degree. But political turmoil forces her to flee, and she finds herself in Canada, ready to start another circle, this time back in medical school.
Life has a way of moving in circles. The decisions I made in some periods of my life caused me to start from scratch over and over again.
I grew up in a modern family, by conservative Turkish standards. My parents had three daughters. My dad was intellectual and hardworking. He always emphasized the importance of education and independence for women.
When I was 17, I got accepted at a nursing school in Istanbul. My family was so proud of me. But deep down, I was feeling a powerful desire to know God. I spent most of my time reading about Islam while sleeping less than three hours a day. University seemed meaningless.
Three months after starting, I quit school and joined a private religious course in Istanbul. I did not tell my parents.
Not long afterward, my family discovered I had dropped out of university. Hearing the news, my father fell ill, and my mom started to search for me in Istanbul. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I can’t forget the moment when she saw me and said, “Rana, my daughter.” She hugged me with all the tiredness from the daughter hunt.
When we went back to our hometown, my dad, despite his broken heart, welcomed me. He told me how sacred it is to become a nurse and to help people. He advised me to go back to university, but I said, “How can I help others when I suffer from my inner conflict?”
When I was 18, the next circle began. I married my husband, who has similar beliefs. I gave birth to my three children. My responsibilities were to take care of my children, clean the house and cook. I didn’t like this lifestyle. My husband was a hard worker but unlucky when it came to earning money. We kept moving from one house to another because we weren’t even able to pay our rent. At one point, we did not have bread to eat. The fact that I couldn’t even afford simple things that my children wanted upset me. Then my father passed away.
So many difficulties. I was 31 when I learned that I had the right to go back to nursing school. It was the beginning of a new cycle. My youngest daughter was just five years old. She didn’t like kindergarten. Every day, I was crying on my way to university. It was so hard to leave my children. I sat in the quietest corner of the bus to hide my unstoppable tears. I told myself to take it one day at a time. Then one day, my mom called: “Congratulations. I heard you’ve started school. You must need my help. I’m coming to Istanbul tomorrow.”
Here I am, finished school. I can’t believe it! This must be a dream…I am wearing a nurse’s uniform and a pair of white hospital slippers on my feet. I am taking care of patients in a health centre. My mom is next to me. “I’m sure your dad is watching us with a warm smile on his face,” she says.
I worked 13 years as a nurse in Istanbul, but I woke up from this dream to discover that a witch hunt was going on. My country declared the religious group I support to be illegal. People were being arrested for being a member. The hospital I worked in was near the government offices. I was always frightened, hoping they didn’t know who I was. When a police officer came to my workplace to have a blood test, I thought he had come to arrest me. “Don’t shake,” I ordered my hand as I took his blood, but my hand couldn’t obey.
I understood that this nightmare would not end. I decided to leave my country. Now I am living without fear under the Canadian flag. This cold country received me with warm, open arms. It is difficult to be happy again, but I try my best. For two years, I struggled to learn English. In May, I will start medical college over again—another circle.
I am looking forward to wearing my nursing shoes again.
Rana Demir came to Canada in 2018. Before that, she worked as a nurse in Istanbul, Turkey, for 13 years. She is now studying to be a medical laboratory technician.