Sophia Lopez left, Yijia Zheng, Ena Marie Harris, and Carmela Russo

These are four women with different ages, backgrounds, personalities, and life philosophies; however, they share the common belief that women should live fearlessly, do their best, and believe in themselves. 

Sophia Lopez: Colombian-Canadian woman in her early 20s

Sophia Lopez sits outside a buildings on the SAIT campus in Calgary on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. It was a sunny autumn afternoon and Lopez shaded her eye with a fallen leaf. (Photo by Yaqing Ke/ The Emery Weal)

As a Colombian-Canadian, Sophia Lopez grew up speaking Spanish and English. Due to her parent’s job, she has been moving around since childhood and moved to Calgary nine years ago, the longest time she has ever lived in a city.

Lopez joined a journalism club when she was in Grade 11, and the club evoked in her interest pursuing Journalism as a lifelong career.

Besides taking programs at SAIT, she also works as the editor-in-chief of the University of Calgary’s student newspaper, the Gauntlet.  

Define independence

“Independence, to me, means that you are not necessarily reliant on other people to make meaningful choices in your life,” said Lopez.

“At the same, receiving help from other people does not mean you are no longer independent because, in a sense, you have the liberty to choose”.

Each one of us is unique in the world 

“Unavoidably, sometimes it is hard not to compare yourself with others. However, I do not think it is not good to compare. If you understand that you are not supposed to be the same as everyone else,” said Lopez.

Lopez also said that everyone has their strength and that learning about the good qualities from others can motivate her to do better for herself. 

The actual principal of feminism in Sophia’s eyes

“Some groups in our society have now divided Feminism. Some are radical feminists; some are less progressive. In my opinion, Feminism is equality for everyone, and it is not a battlefield between genders,” said Lopez. 

Lopez has ambitions for her future, and while she’s still figuring out her life plans and discovering herself, she is not afraid to try new things. She believes that she is on a journey of self-discovery, and uncertainty is normal for her age.

Yijia Zheng: Chinese woman in her late 20s

Yijia Zheng stands under a tree at Calgary’s Heritage Park on Saturday, Sep 17, 2022. Summer finished, some leaves on the trees had just turned yellow, and Calgary officially stepped into the first chapter of autumn. (Photo by Yaqing Ke/ The Emery Weal)

Yijia Zheng has abundant experiences living abroad since Grade 10. She attended high school in Singapore when she was 15 and moved to Canada to pursue a university education when she was 17.

After graduation, she worked at a bank for one year and now works for the Canadian federal government.

Due to the nature of her work, Zheng has lived in four cities in Canada: Charlottetown, Vancouver, and Penticton. This year, she moved to Calgary for her job mobility. 

She is currently working full-time in Calgary while studying at the University of Calgary to pursue her master’s degree and learn French. She will continue pursuing a CPA designation certificate after graduation to continue her career development. 

Short-term goals

Zheng prefers to make short-term goals over long-term goals because it provides flexibility to her career path. She enjoys living in the moment and tries not to limit herself.

“Short-term goals help me to do things efficiently; I tend not to overthink the bigger picture. It gives me more energy to focus on what I am doing now, considering the effort I put into my goals. I believe I will benefit from it in the long run. I try to keep it at ease so that I can enjoy my life more,” said Zheng.

Life impact built who I am today

Growing up in a single-parent family, Zheng’s mother raised her and her brother on her own. Besides the support in her education, she supports them with love and courage.

“My mom is a great woman. She gave us as much love as children can get from their parents. She teaches me many things, and I learn that a woman’s character is as important as her quality: to be creative, fun, and brave,” said Zheng. 

Zheng thinks at this stage of her life there are still many possibilities in her future. She also thinks sometimes words are empty if they’re unachievable; therefore, she puts her goals into action and makes everyday count. 

Ena Marie Harris: African-Canadian in her early 40s

Ena Marie Harris stands at the pedestrian bridge of CF Chinook Mall in Calgary on Sunday, Oct.23, 2022. It was a cloudy afternoon, and Harris was busier than usual because Calgarians crowded in the mall to get winter gear. (Photo by Yaqing Ke/The Emery Weal)

Ena Marie Harris is an African-Canadian born and raised in Alberta. She has spent most of her life in Calgary. Her mother was an immigrant from Haiti and came to Alberta to pursue a college education in her early 20s.

Harris is a trained graphic designer who has worked in the beauty industry for several years. Currently, she works at home on her graphic design business while taking a part-time job at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Harris occasionally sells paintings as a freelance painter. She also plans to return to school for a nursing program.

Mid-life Crisis: still looking forward to the future

Harris experiences a different kind of mid-life crisis compared to other women of her age. Even though she worries that she might not have the life that her mother wanted for her, she feels more comfortable in her 40s than she ever did in her 20s.

“Yes, sometimes I feel that the clock is ticking, but as I grew older, I gained more confidence and felt self-acceptance, and I am still looking forward to the future,” said Harris. 

Kindness with boundaries

Harris is a sincere Christian. Her belief teaches her to be kind and appreciate life. She likes the atmosphere that her religion provides; helping people. Seeing smiles on people’s faces makes her feel rewarded.

“Throughout my life, I have always been kind to people, but kindness should come with a boundary; it is also kind to let people know if they have crossed your boundaries,” said Harris.

The courage to face inequality with equality

Harris’ mother has always presented an excellent example. Harris’ mother was one of a few Black women at school in the 70s. Inevitably, she appeared to be very different and visible. 

As our society develops, so does civilization, and things continue to improve for the Black community. Black women obtained more of a voice in public, but racism was rather severe in the 70s. Data contributed By Małgorzata Kieryło illustrates the struggle that the Black community experienced in the 70s.

On the report of Kierylo’s data of page 200, the Canadian government issued a new policy of multiculturalism aimed to redefine the essence of Canadian identity in 1971. Nonetheless, some English Canadian Press neglected to examine the new policy completely.

Besides the pressure from racism, her mother’s language barrier was another major issue. Nevertheless, her mother managed to conquer these difficulties and treat other people with equality.

“My mother is my role model and a tough woman. All the good qualities I learned from her made me stronger. Regardless of the inequalities in our lives, she made me understand the importance of holding onto humanity and speaking for ourselves,” said Harris.

Life is bittersweet, but your attitude can make a difference

Harris contracted COVID-19 in July. Her mother and brother were soon infected too. She and her mother recovered well; however, her brother lost the ability to walk for a couple of months. After receiving treatment, he is able to walk a short-distance. His condition is still not good enough to return to work. 

“It was tough to see a family member suffer that much pain, but we cannot change what has happened. So, I look at things on the bright side, and I am grateful that he survived this. We need to appreciate what we have. I remember when he came back from the hospital, I even made a gentle joke to make him laugh,” said Harris.

Be adventurous

“Looking back on my life, I do not regret my decisions, but if I get the chance to live again, I may have done things differently. I wish I could have more courage to seize the opportunities I had in my life, travel more, be adventurous and live my life to the fullest,” said Harris. 

Carmela Russo: Italian Canadian in her late 60s

Carmela Russo sits in front of the French window at Monogram Coffee in downtown Calgary on Monday, 2022. (Photo by Yaqing Ke/The Emery Weal)

Carmela Russo was born in Italy and came to Canada with her family when she was 2. Her parents brought them to Canada with less than one hundred dollars in their pockets. She lived in the mountains for the first five years, with no running water, electricity, or radio until her school-age. 

Life was difficult for them. Her father’s first job paid 17 cents per hour, but even though they had nothing extraordinary, they were extraordinary themselves. They helped and supported each other, and she considered it a precious experience that allowed her to cherish herself.

“I come from Italy; I am proud of my heritage and to be a Canadian. I was free to become what I want to be,” said Carmela Russo.

Turn the pressure into power

Russo believes that everyone has felt peer pressure. While it is okay to feel that way occasionally, women should not let themselves indulge in negative feelings. They should turn it into a force that pushes us to become better people.

“I know who I am, and I’m taking control of my life because I do not live under other people’s expectations. I understand living a real life is easier than maintaining the figure that people expect you to be,” said Russo.

“You will always think somebody is prettier than you, richer than you, or even have a better figure (but only in your mind). A body and look only go so far; what you have in your brain will take you further than anywhere you want to go,” said Russo. 

A better version of myself thanks to the people in my life

Russo’s husband passed away three months ago, and she is still grieving.

“We had been through ups and downs together. He gave me the confidence to become a better version of myself,” said Russo.

Growing up in a healthy competition with three brothers, and having sons in her life, Russo learned a positive way to reach her goals.

“I would not change my life for any other way; I appreciate my life experience and am thankful for the people in my life” said Russo.

Be comfortable with whomever you want to be 

“If you ask my opinion, my advice is to be comfortable with yourselves, and study hard, if that is what you want to do. If you want to be a manual labourer, be a manual labourer because we need everybody in this world. Just do the best you can in whatever you try,” said Russo.

Russo relishes human interaction. She was dedicated to her job and received numerous awards for her persistence as a front customer service cashier at Calgary Coop. Two greatest honours are the Mayors White Hat award in 2010 and Best Customer Service Retail in 2014. Her only regret was that her parents could not be there to witness this honour.

“In life, when you do the best, you will be proud of whom you have become. When you give respect, you get respect. Treat people how you wish to be treated. Respect yourself and what you have chosen for yourself in life, and you will rise to the top,” said Russo.

I like me

“At this point in my life, and looking back, I am okay with myself. It took a long time to say to myself, ‘I like me’ I think I’m there,” said Russo. 

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