September 2002
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A Student And A Father
By Adam Wu, Age 19, Burnaby, BC

I reminisced with a friend recently about the wild things we used to do in school. Besides being able to go to the clubs with their own IDs, for most of my friends not much has changed since then. My life, however, has taken a complete 180.

The days when all I had to do was finish homework are long gone. I've traded cutting class for burning the midnight oil, and chasing girls for the family life. Talk about a reality check. My life has changed so drastically that I have almost nothing in common with most of my friends. On the rare occasions that we get together that becomes quite evident. When all they are worried about is what club they're going to, I'm trying to figure out how in the heck I am going to meet the deadlines for all my school projects, getting enough hours at my job and still have time for my family.

When I found out that I was going to be a father, I had two choices – go work for minimum wage or stay in school and follow my dream of being a graphic artist. I didn't have to weigh my options very long. I loathed the possibility of having to wake up day in and day out to drag myself to some monotonous job. But I figured that if I stayed in school, at some point the pain would turn to prosperity. I now go to school through BC's Open Learning Program and have a part time job which helps pay the bills.

My girlfriend and mother of my child is finishing her high school through home schooling. We get help from family as well as some government assistance. With one thing or another, we get by.

It is very difficult to try to balance school, assignments and my job let alone find for my family and a little social life.

Consequently, I spend less time at home and have less energy to do things with my family. All my efforts at maintaining a balance in my life have gone out the window, replaced by an ongoing struggle inside of me. When I am at the drawing board doing homework, I feel I should be at the park with my daughter. When I am at the park with my daughter, I feel I should be at the drawing board.

When I talk to my friends about all the responsibility that I have, they just shake their heads sympathetically with that "I'm glad I'm not you" look on their faces. Most of them are still pretty much living carefree, but for me, it's do or die. The choices that I make now will determine how my family and I live in the future.

I struggle constantly with the tremendous emotional and physical drain that goes with being a parent and a student. People praise me for my perseverance, but to be totally honest I don't deserve any praise. If it were up to me I probably would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. The only reason why I haven't is because of my daughter. I am thankful for a good relationship my girlfriend, Jas. Whether we stay together or not, we are committed to provided a strong, healthy environment for our child.

As my perspective has changed, I have begun to see quite a few advantages that I now have because of my situation. When kids at my school are busy partying and getting drunk, I'm drawing and spending time with my family. And when my classmates are taking ski trips and European vacations, I'm studying. The pressure to support my family and the fear of failing has fueled a fire in me.

Whenever the thought of giving up even crosses my mind, all I have to do is think about my daughter. That little girl has kept me going on many sleepless nights. If I had to do it all over, I would, but this time I would get the timing right and wait until I'm done with school to start a family.

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