From Mattresses to Magic

Hi, I am Fatima! Maker of Magic & Peddler of Stories • 

Hi, I am Fatima! Maker of Magic & Peddler of Stories • 

Hi, I am Fatima! Maker of Magic & Peddler of Stories • 

Hi, I am Fatima! Maker of Magic & Peddler of Stories • 

Hi, I am Fatima! Maker of Magic & Peddler of Stories • 

Fatima Zehra
From Mattresses to Magic
May 29, 2023

Hi I am Fatima & today I wanted to share w/ you my story.

It's going to be a long one so I suggest you grab a cup of tea & settle in for we are going for a ride down my memory lane.

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In the Summer of 2008, I moved to Canada at the age of 16. It was sudden. I woke up one day & my mom told me we were moving to the other side of the world in 2 weeks. I was shocked, I was in denial. I had never moved before. I have had the same group of friends I met in kindgarten. I always knew myself as the girl who lived in Karachi right in front of the sea. Not someone who lived in... Canada.

I remember crying on the plane throughout the journey & the streward bringing me drinks & candy to cheer me up.

Once we landed, it all seemed so alien to me. The air smelled different. It was cooler, lighter. People looked like they were out of a movie- considering I was only exposed to one race my entire life.

Our uncle took us to our first apartment, a 2-bedroom basement at $800/month which seemed like a looot for something so small. We stayed there for 6 months. I remembered my first days being so gloomy. We slept on mattresses with no other furniture around. To pass my days I often walked to the central library & bring back 2-3 books that I'd sprint through in a matter of days. My mom would give us a dollar a week to treat ourselves to whatever we could afford w/ that allowance.

Once the summer was over, we had to gear up for school. I had so many thoughts about that at the time. I didn't know what to expect considering I had always been part of the same group for 16 years. I never needed to make new friends so I never learned how to- which gave me massive anxiety. I also didn't have many warm clothes so I had to resort to the same 3 sets I had.

Despite all these harrowing thoughts, I went to school. It was tough. I had no friends & sucked at making any. I ate lunch alone in the library reading novels that helped me escape to much cheerful, magical realms. I couldn't concentrate on school work so I lagged behind which crushed my soul even more. Once, I even heard two girls whisper behind me, commenting on how I keep wearing the same clothes, which was enough to send me running back home in tears, vowing to myself to never go back.

But I did, I had to.

Somehow I was able to finish my semester failing two classes but hey, passing 3. We then had to move as we couldnt stay in the basement for too long.

It was a brighter chapter. We moved to a townhouse that we couldnt afford but my parents wanted us to have a better experience in the new place so they took that risk nonetheless. My new school was better, I was able to make friends & settle in.

I started to feel at home & thought that things will be better now.

They were... but not for long.

My dad decided to leave. My mom fell into depression. The winter got worse & we started to run out of money.

I looked for jobs but couldn't find anything decent. But finally I did & would work 12 hour days getting paid way under minimum wage. It finally came time for us to not be able to make rent & so we needed to leave but had no place to go. Luckily my friends family were kind enough for us to stay with them till we figured out our next steps.

My mom decided to go back to Pakistan to see if she can selling some of our property & bring back money. She was able to but only a little bit of it which helped us find a 1-bedroom apartment for the 3 of us to live in. It was tough but we had our own place.

Soon, our mental health started to decline as the space was too small for us & future looked grim again. So my mother travelled back to see if she can find better luck in selling our property. This time she did. She was gone for months, leaving my 15 years old brother & myself at 18 all by ourselves.

I had found a job at McDonald's & was finally making minimage wage- which was a massive win for me. So I spent most of my time working, making money to support myself & trying to keep up with school but barely. By now, my dreams had been so severely crushed that all I dreamt of was having my own tiny place & being able to make a liveable wage.

I'd often go for walks in my neighbourhood, watching families together, safe & happy, wondering if that would ever be my reality again. I'd often imagine families going in their homes, having a wonderful life. Kids having their own rooms, never worrying about if they'd have a home next month or noth. I'd picture myself having my own room & never being bothered by trivial issues like making rent or being able to afford food.

Thus, it was no surprise that being let down in life for so long, I didn't expect myself to be worthy enough to go to university so I didn't bother. I slacked in school & when all of my friends started to apply for universities, I focused on getting more shifts at McDonalds.

My mom who was struggling to find us a better home was unable to focus on my school career & so I slipped more & more until one day I entered my first art class- I needed to get an art credit to graudate highschool so I took it on.

That was the moment when everything changed for me.

It was like I was awoken from a deep slumber.

I remember it so clearly. I was so aware & present.

My art teacher, who is now a dear friend & my life mentor, introduced the class curriculum to me & sent me off on my first art project which I miserably failed.

She encouraged to keep going & pushed me to do better because I could.

I started taking interest in my academics again. I started caring about my future again. I realized I wanted more than to spend my hours dying at a minimage wage job. I wanted to be an artist.

So I decided to come back for an extra year to make up for my poor grades. In order to go to the university of my choice I had to take extra credits outside of art like calculus, history, etc. The more I studied the more I remembered how much I loved studying before I moved to the new country.

And so my dreams began to evolve... My grades improved which expanded my choices. I no longer had to constrain myself to community colleges nor mediocre universities. I started asking myself what I really wanted & so made the decision to go to business school instead so that I can be savvy at selling my art.

However, it wasn't a rosey decision as business school brought with it a ton of struggles.

It wasn't as fun as art & it was a lot tougher than I imagined. But I pushed through. I went for regular counselling to keep my mental health in check. My family, while being able to have a home, was unable to support me so I had to work 3 jobs. I remember having a night shift at McDonalds & a morning shift at my media office job so I'd finish the overnight & go straight to open in my next job.

I wasn't sleeping, nor eating but I got through. I made it fun by socializing & partying which wasn't great for my personal development or mental health, it did help me distract from my grim reality of the time.

4 years passed. I graduated. I got a salary job. I thought to myself it was it. Its rainbows & sunshine from here. It was not.

I started to hate my job. The commute was long. The work tedious.

I forced myself to feel grateful. To like it. But I couldn't. My mental health started to dwindle  & I was once again struggling to be happy.

I had applied to a prestigious art school while in my final semester, not expecting to get in as I had skipped the in-person interview. However, I got in. They liked my art that I submitted & told me I could study in any program offered by the university. I was ecstatic & in awe. I had forgotten about art & couldn't fathom being an artist.

I started my second degree while working fulltime. It was tough. My grades were affected. My job was affected. I wanted it all so bad but I couldn't do it. So I had to pick one. I picked the school & quit my job.

I found an easier gig that paid less but was more fun & aligned. It was great but I was let go within 3 months.

I took a month off to figure out myself for the first time since I was 17. I was 23 at the time. It was the first time in my life that I was... content. We were financially stable. I didn't have to worry. So I spent my days doing whatever the fuck I wanted. And I did. I went out to the city, explored, took pictures & started a blog.

My blog grew & I knew I wanted to pursue something similar. Something that would allow me to be my own boss while making a reasonable income.

So after moving to the city & hopping 3 more jobs, I decided to just do it. I knew no matter how great a job, I'd always want more. I moved back home to my mom. I spent months soulsearching & finding myself. I tried to monetize my blog but to avail. It was then that I joined a mastermind which opened my eyes to so many possibilities.

I was infinite. I had skills. I had knowledge. I had experience. All of which were enough to help my dream become a reality.

That's how I started my entrepreneurial journey.

There was a lot of trial & error involved. A lot of (read: $40k+) investments in coaching, setting up my business legally, hiring a team, etc. Multiple pivots. I started as a freelance designer, transitioned to a coach, only to come back to design & branding but as a studio rather than a freelancer.

It is only now, 13 and a half years later, that I am finally feeling that I have a stable ground I can walk on that will lead me to my destinations- because they're more than one.

I know this is just a beginning but I am glad to finally be out of the trenches. My dear mother, who has been through so much to keep us safe & sound in a foreign country we now call our forever home, has her own cute 1-bedroom condo in the city. My brother who also graduated from the same university as me has his own thriving business & lives in his apartment, scaling & bettering his brand. And seeing how all not only made it out but are now thriving is enough to make my heart sing w/ joy.

I am grateful for to listen to my story right till the end- it was long so I appreciate it.

I am excited for this new chapter in my being, doing what aligns better with my higher self & soaring further in my journey discovering more magical realms.

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