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Age Isn't A Barrier For My Mom. As Long As She Can Continue Her Education

Ardit Briskaj and his mother, Alketa Briskaj, pictured in Albania (left) and in Boston. (Courtesy of the author)MoreCloseclosemore
Ardit Briskaj and his mother, Alketa Briskaj, pictured in Albania (left) and in Boston. (Courtesy of the author)

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Editors' Note: Ardit Briskaj’s essay is one of 74 student essays about the immigrant experience included in 826 Boston's latest book, "Like the Sun in Dark Spaces." The new book features essays by students at Boston International Newcomers Academy, a Boston public high school that serves English Language Learners. 

Often she approaches me with a bunch of papers and asks me to read and explain them to her. I know for sure what kind of information the papers contain. It’s either another English course opening up that she wants to join, or a website that can help her learn English and she wants me to teach her how to use it.

My mom, Alketa, grew up in a family of seven in a village named Buz, located in a high and cold mountain somewhere in the south of Albania. Just like other girls her age, she grew up cleaning, washing the dishes, preparing food, and taking care of her four younger siblings.

My mom still works in a hospital today, but as a food attendant, even though she wants to be the person who gives vaccines to the little babies.

She wanted to lighten the load for her parents. She grew up happy with what she had: a small house with a big family. But she always envied the respect that city children had. While they had real toys, my mom had to make toys with any materials she could find. The key to escaping village life was education and becoming a nurse or a teacher.

In the 1970s, the Communist System prohibited a person from becoming what he or she wanted, but instead forced a person to become what the country needed. Alketa was one of the lucky ones. Her village needed nurses, so she was chosen to continue her education. But she was a hero, not a nurse, because she started working for $5 a month to heal the wounded coming home from the war in Kosovo.

Ardit and his mom, Alketa, pictured with his brother, Griseld in a family photo. (Courtesy)
Ardit and his mom, Alketa, pictured with his brother, Griseld in a family photo. (Courtesy)

As the years passed, the laws changed, and in order for her to continue working, she had to complete two more years of university. When I was in fifth grade, my mom, my brother, and I studied around the kitchen table together. For two years, my mother traveled three hours each way to the capital, Tirana. She came home to us on weekends and performed all the housework while she finished the requirements of the new law and began to work again.

After 20 years, Alketa faced another life transition: moving to the U.S. for a better life. Once more she repeated a pattern, transitioning from a less developed place to a more developed one, from her job as a nurse to someone climbing her way up again. My mom still works in a hospital today, but as a food attendant, even though she wants to be the person who gives vaccines to the little babies. My mother wants to learn a new language, English, and master it, so that she can take classes that will open doors for her to the medical field in the United States.

“The moment I reach my current definition of success, I create another definition so I can have something to work toward.”

Alketa Briskaj

My mom doesn’t see age as a barrier as long as she keeps herself educated. I often ask her if she would ever get to that point where she would stop taking classes and just be satisfied with her job. She replied, “The moment I reach my current definition of success, I create another definition so I can have something to work toward.”

This essay appears in "Like the Sun in Dark Spaces" under the title, "Once more she repeated a pattern." The book is available for purchase at independent bookstores in the Boston area and on 826 Boston’s website.

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Ardit Briskaj Cognoscenti contributor
Ardit Briskaj is a student at Boston International Newcomers Academy.

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