3 March 2012
Family will always be your backbone in life to support you in all that you do. It doesn’t matter if there is no education or lack of money, every person has the opportunity to grow and become who they’d like. My father, Faisal Hanif, and I have lived very different lives but we connect on every level of life. Education doesn’t tally a person’s whole character but rather just builds upon it. Faisal chose not to further his studies but now I choose to follow a different path and advance in my education.
Motivation elicits a strong desire to do things in life, from wanting a better future or simply an urge to work towards better grades. In life, every person should be motivated to reach their goals because without them you would not reach your full potential. I learnt that Faisal lacked this essential component in his early educational career. From the get go, he didn’t have a mentor or a role model who he wanted to be like. Looking back at his school days he said:
I don’t think I had any [educational role models] growing up. I didn’t have anybody to really look up to. My entire family didn’t have much education and neither did the people in my village so an educational role model wasn’t necessary. My teachers were there but they never played a big part in my life. My parents sent me to school and expected me to pass and that was it. There was never any inspirational talks or words of encouragement from them. That’s just the way things were. So in Guyana you were either smart and went on ahead in school or you didn’t. And I didn’t have what it took to be successful in school.” (Hanif)
The mere fact that Faisal “didn’t have anybody to really look up to” depicts his lackadaisical attitude towards school. He didn’t aspire to have dreams like someone he knew that could’ve helped him on that path. At such a young age he didn’t see not having an educational role model as something detrimental but rather insignificant to him. Not growing up around an educated family or being amongst highly educated people didn’t motive him at all to set goals for himself because this was not the mindset of Guyanese people at the time. A mentor or a guidance counselor in his life would have allowed him to see the real importance of education. Fortunately, my grandparents did send Faisal to school but he didn’t reap the benefits of having the guidance to further his studies. School was not seen as that important and Faisal picked up this mentality from the environment he was constantly surrounded by. Faisal says he was smart kid until the work got too hard for him and he got fed up of trying. It’s understandable that his parents never took the time to give Faisal any “inspirational talks” or “words of encouragement” because they didn’t have the education themselves to know how to hone the importance of education on their son. Also, tradition wasn’t passed on that way from their parents so the educational trajectory took the backseat in my family history. Like Faisal emphasized as a part of the Guyanese culture, either you were smart and excelled in your education or you simply didn’t. No one took the time to foster your educational needs; being able to retain knowledge was a sort of gift that you promulgated upon yourself. Faisal admits to me that, “I didn’t have what it takes to be successful in school” and I believe that he didn’t have the motivation to push himself and get ahead in his studies because he was capable of doing so but opted the easy way out by setting himself up for deficiency. You will always end up with the amount of effort you put into something and Faisal’s way of thinking impeded his educational path. Thankfully, he decided to take another path in his life seriously, his career track, where he found true motivation.
At the age of fourteen Faisal finished his educational career and never looked back. He was intimated by not passing the exam to get into high school so he shied away from the work load of school. Faisal’s family was fortunate enough to have the money to send him to school and even then, he felt he wouldn’t have a success story of his own to tell. But after dropping out of school in junior high, his ambition grew toward building a career for himself. He recalled his journey of his myriad apprenticeships and told me:
Since school wasn’t for me, my father sent me to a trade school to learn mechanics but I didn’t really have a knack for it even though I could’ve done the work. Then, my father sent me to learn radio electronics with an electrician but I tell ya, the guy didn’t know anything himself. So after that failed, I began to loose hope but my father never did. My father was a jeweler and I started working with him and learnt how to make all types of jewelry. I liked it because I was working with my dad and that’s how to this day, I’m still a jeweler.” (Hanif)
Faisal made an adamant decision to not endure his education but that meant the work front had become his new scene. He admits he was young and didn’t care about the financial means or future endeavors for himself but that didn’t mean he would give up. His father pushed him into different trades because he knew my father was good at this hands and not necessarily with the books. He dwindled in mechanics because as young boy, cars sparked his interest but not for long because the work became meticulous and demanding. His drive continued in electricity but there he experienced not having the best mentor to train him and turned him away from the skill. Faisal’s perseverance as a young man led him to the profession he still holds today. The jewelry craft ran in his family for two generations before and certainly left its legacy imposed on him as well. My grandfather wanted his son to become a man on his own but let my father spread his wings under his watchful eyes. My grandfather deserves utmost credit where Faisal stands now as a jeweler. Making jewelry became a profession for Faisal and tied a bond so strong between a father and son. Faisal is proud to be a jeweler and doesn’t regret one bit of his decision making in life. However, Faisal was once offered a job opportunity to work as a molder for TIffany & Co. being highly recommended by a supervisor and his execution of the work for a tryout was outstanding but the one drawback was that he needed to have a degree. It was hard to loose such a great opportunity to excel in his craft with, but he understood what it meant to not be qualified educationally. From that point, he vouched to make his daughter’s life straight on the successful path in whatever she desired.
Faisal may have never experienced a childhood where he was very connected to his parents but he sure didn’t let that opportunity slide when he was blessed with a child of his own. Being his only child, much less his little girl, I am the apple of his eye and when it came to raising me Faisal had a crystal clear understanding of how he wanted me to be. He told me:
There were so many values I wanted you to learn and always have in your life. Since you were a little girl I taught you that respect for yourself and other people will take you far in life. I wanted you to know right from wrong and make good choices. I wanted you to be a leader and not a follower. I made sure you had proper manners and knew how to behave in public. I wanted you to focus on school and excel in your studies. I want to follow you in every dream you have and support you because you are my life. I want the best for you and hope I led the way clearly. And so far, you have made me proud. (Hanif)
I understand why Faisal wanted me to have “respect for [myself] and other people” because that is a quality that brings out a true character in someone. Having respect for myself in this ruthless world will always let my father know he raised a strong woman who can stand up for herself. As a parent you will always worry about the fortune and safety of your child and Faisal protects me from harm while allowing me to still grow as an individual. He taught me right from wrong so I could go out in the world and display a fine sense of ethics. I was taught “to be a leader” because Faisal knew he raised a confident girl that would never have to succumb to someone else’s will. Real confidence comes from knowing you have good character which can also be interpreted as having proper manners. Faisal taught me how to carry myself like a lady because your actions are how the world sees you and he wanted the world to have a good impression of his daughter. Also, school was always a priority for me because my parents instilled that in me at a young age. Doing well in school will hopefully lead me to become the successful lawyer I aspire to be one day. Faisal does support this dream of mine and believes that I can become notable. He has even helped me land an amazing internship for the legal fraction of a science research company, Enzo Biochem. I have made Faisal proud and couldn’t ask for a better return in my continuos effort to do well. He sees an ample amount of potential in me that I want to continue to fill.
I am the first one in my family to achieve such educational success and I hope one day this will make my life easier than what my parents had to go through. They worked hard to send me to a private school because they thought it best for me. I always studied hard to get good grades because I understood the sacrifice my father made for me. When asked about his thoughts on my achievements he revealed:
“Well I always knew you would be a smart girl because you loved reading ever since you were little. You always got Student of the Month and were always on the Honor Roll. I was so thankful that you were smart because your mother and I never understood your school work to help you. You really did do it all by yourself and I never had any problems with you in school. Your biggest achievement was making it into Fordham because that was your reach school and I hope that made you realize how smart you really are. I hope I’ll be able to send you there one day.” (Hanif)
My grandfather once told me, “When you read you make yourself smarter” so that phrase has stuck with me ever since. I understand what he meant by that now because reading is the key to knowledge. I did my very best in school because I wanted to be on top; that feeling was satisfying to me. It truly was a gift that I was able to succeed in school without needing aid. My parents didn’t have the education but that never halted me from getting ahead. I saw that as a way to want to do better for myself in life. Unfortunately, I’m not attending the school that I’d like to but that doesn’t mean I won’t make the best of my experience at Queens College.
Faisal and I have traveled two different roads and experienced different lifestyles along the way. His life was career oriented while mine is still wrapped around an educational path. There were places in his life that lacked guidance that he was sure to fill in my life. Education and money may be part of the American dream but there are other success stories alive in this country like that of my father. Faisal’s life is a lesson to me on its own so I can grow to be the strong minded individual he raised me to be.
Hanif, Faisal. Personal interview. 5 Mar. 2012.
Interview with My Father, Faisal Hanif
Q: When were you born?
I was born in Vreed en Hoop, Guyana.
Q: When were you born?
I was born in 1961.
Q: What was the highest level of schooling that you had?
The highest that I went up to in school was I believe junior high. In Guyana, the grades work different but I’m pretty different sure that’s what it would be over here.
Q: What was the highest level of your parent’s education?
My parent’s education. My father went to high school because he was smart and his parents could have afforded to go to school. My mom went to high school as well but when her older sister got married she was the next oldest girl in the house so she had to drop out of school to take care of the family.
Q: Who was your educational role model and why?
I don’t think I had any growing up. I didn’t have anybody to really look up to. My entire family didn’t have much education and neither did the people in my village so an educational role model wasn’t necessary. My teachers were there but they never played a big role in my life. My parents sent me to school and expected me to pass and that was it. There was never any inspirational talks or words of encouragement from them. That’s just the way things were. So in Guyana you were either smart and went on ahead in school or you didn’t. And I didn’t have what it took to be successful in school.
Q: Can you please describe you memory of school and what type of student you were.
Well I can start by saying that I really did like school. I had lots of friends and two best friends that I went to school with. I always like English, especially poetry because we did a lot of that over there. I did my homework and yes, (smirk on his face) occasionally cheat on tests. But back then, the teachers were allowed to hit students if they were misbehaving and man, did I get my share of that. I would know the material but blank out on the exams. In junior high, the work started to get harder and when Algebra came, I did bad. I really tried my best. My mother even got me a private tutor and asked teachers to spend extra time with me. I just don’t know what happened to me. I started to do bad and got fed up of trying.
Q: Did you want to go to high school? Why or why not?
Actually I did want to go to high school but I didn’t make it. In order to get into high school, you have to pass an exam called CP which had six subjects. The thing is, I only made five of those subjects. I failed hygiene so I couldn’t go on. Your grandmother wanted me to take the exam again but I didn’t want to.
Q: So what did you do after middle school?
Since school wasn’t for me, my father sent me to a trade school to learn mechanics but I didn’t really have a knack for it even though I could do the work. Then, my father sent me with an electrician to learn how to do electricity but I tell ya, the guy I was learning from didn’t know anything himself. So after that failed, I began to loose hope but my father never did. My father was a jeweler and I started working with him and learnt how to make all types of jewelry. I liked it because I was working with my dad and that’s how to this day, I’m still a jeweler.
Q: What year did you come to this country?
I came here when I was 26 years old…in let me see, 1986. I was living in Corona with my mom and dad and three of my siblings.
Q: Did you ever want to get your GED once you got here and continue on to college? And why?
Actually, I didn’t want to go back to school once I got here. I didn’t think I would get the grades over here if I failed in Guyana. But I wanted to pursue my jewelry career. So after some time here I took classes at F.I.T for jewelry making and even at another local school to learn how to set diamonds. That cost me so much money but it was worth it so I could learn how to do jewelry the American way. I wanted to find a good job because I knew I had something good going with jewelry. I was pretty good at it but it was hard finding a good job. Because I was an immigrant I had to settle for minimum wage at first even though I was told that was work was really good. I never stopped trying and perseverance is what got me to where I am today. I may not be the richest man but I am happy.
Q: What are your thoughts on raising a child?
There were so many values I wanted you to learn and always have in your life. Since you were a little girl I taught you that respect for yourself and other people will take you far in life. I wanted you to know right from wrong and make good choices. I wanted you to be a leader and not a follower. I made sure you had proper manners and knew how to behave in public. I wanted you to focus on school and excel in your studies. I want to follow you in every dream you have and support you because you are my life. I want the best or you and hope I led the way for you. And so far, you have made me proud.
Q: Why did you sent me to a private school all my life?
I sent you to a private school because I wanted you to have discipline that I thought public schools lacked. To me they were safer and a better environment for you to be in. I didn’t think your elementary school was that grew so I sent you to O.L.P.H. (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) so you would be able to get the best education. Then you went to Molloy because they were the top Catholic high school in Queens and I knew you would make it in that school. I wanted the best for you.
Q: So why am I at Queens College now?
Because I couldn’t afford to send you to Fordham like you wanted and I feel bad because of that. But I know you will do well there. It’s funny because your college tuition is lower than your high school one.
Q: What do you think of my major being Political Science?
I’m glad Donald (my uncle) talked you into this major. I suits you and it’ll lead up to law one day. I read your papers last semester and they were really good so I know you chose the right major.
Q: Why did you send me to a Catholic school when we’re Muslims?
I sent you there because the Islamic school you were in didn’t meet the academic standard I wanted for you. You received your Islamic education and I knew you were grounded in your belief and no Catholic doctrine would ever sway you. That’s why we always practice Islam and I talk to you about you beliefs all the time.
Q: Where do you see me in ten years?
Whoah, that seems like a long way from now. So if you’ll be 28, I guess you’ll be married with a family of your own. I can see being a lawyer balancing a career and family at the same time, relying on your mother for a lot of help. I hope you’d know how to cook by then.
Q: What do you think of my educational achievements throughout my life?
Well I always knew you would be a smart girl because you loved reading ever since you were little. You always got Student of the Month and were always on the Honor Roll. I was so thankful that you were smart because your mother and I never understood your school work to help you. You really did do it all by yourself and I never had any problems with you in school. Your biggest achievement was making it into Fordham because that was your reach school and I hope that made you realize how smart you really are. I hope I’ll be able to send you there one day.
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