Starting fresh

Posted: 1 October 2015

My name is Zarina Bostan, I am 35 years old and a mother of two – one 16 and the other 18. I have had hereditary hearing loss since I was five years old which runs in my family and which my 18-year-old has also inherited. We both wear hearing aids but can hear too.

I had always dreamed of becoming a solicitor one day, but never thought I would even get close, due to my personal circumstances as well as my disability.

I was persuaded into an arranged marriage at the tender age of 16, but this ended very quickly (although it didn’t feel like it at the time). When I was 20 I left home due to domestic violence, with my then two-year-old and eight-month-old baby. It was a very lonely time in my life, as I came from a large family and I was completely disowned by all of them. They had their reasons, which I understand now, but at the time I felt alone. I couldn’t allow myself to break down, as I had two baby daughters who needed me more than ever and I had to be strong for them.

Beginning the journey

Once I got used to being alone, I began, with the support of the Women’s Refuge, to pick myself up. A big part of this was participating in various short courses.

I always wanted to study and enjoyed my time in secondary school. I believe that, given the opportunity, I would have done well in my exams, which were just a few months away when my arranged marriage took place. I was not allowed to complete my studies, so therefore had no GCSEs or A Levels.

I pretty much did any course that I was interested in and initially it was just to pass time and get myself out of the refuge, as well as build my confidence that. Without really having any sense of direction, I never believed I could ever achieve anything more than just gaining knowledge. It was not until I gained an NVQ Level 3 in maths and English that I began believing in myself, and thinking that I was perhaps capable of more than I gave myself credit for. So I carried on and undertook a course in secretarial and administration, for which I was awarded a diploma.

Getting on the career ladder

After I obtained the diploma, I hoped this would enable me to find a secretarial position and began job-hunting. Although I was very grateful of the help given to me by the state by providing me with a home and benefits, this is not what I wanted. I did not want to be dependent on benefits for the rest of my life, nor did I want to set this example to my children. I wanted to set the example that a person should work as soon as they are able to, and not rely on the state to provide for their family. Thank you, but now it’s my turn.

Unfortunately, I hit a stumbling block as I was very geographically very far away from my immediate family (which was necessary, as my ex-husband also lived near them), so I didn’t have any help with childcare - for example, picking them up from school. As a result, I was not able to fulfill the requirements of 9-5 roles.

I eventually gave up searching, believing fate was against me. Although there was no pressure from the state at the time for me to work, I felt like a failure. This was until a friend who worked in a care home helped me get a job as a cleaner, which was perfect, because the hours were between the children’s school hours, and the home was literally across the road from their school.

This job boosted my confidence and made me feel independent; it was a real stepping stone for me, as I had never worked before. I finally felt I was part of something.

I was promoted twice in the three years I worked in the care home, from a domestic to a carer, and then to an activity coordinator, but I wanted more. My confidence and ambition just continued growing. Then one day, I saw a newspaper advert for a course to become a driving instructor. I didn’t believe I had it in me, but as it wasn’t far away, I went along to the driving school to make some inquiries. Before I knew it, I had signed up to start training. This was a challenge, and it took me quite some time, but I eventually qualified. I felt like this was a huge achievement, as I could finally start earning decent money for my family. My earnings subsequently allowed me to buy my first home, where we now all live.

Moving into the law

Soon after, I advertised my spare room for a lodger, so as to give me some company - and obviously the rent helped, as the girls’ father never paid any child support.  I couldn’t have known at the time that I would be in debt to my lodger for the rest of my life for her help and support in the time she spent with me. I always talked about my interest in law, and would go on and on about it. I even bored her with watching the box set of Ally McBeal repeatedly! She must have got fed up with me, as she asked me one day why I didn’t pursue a career in law. I thought she was crazy - this was something I had never even contemplated. I said it was not possible as I had no formal qualifications to be accepted into university.  But she didn’t stop and she kept on at me to try.

Due to her persistence, I began exploring the possibility. It was then that I discovered that the University of East London would consider my application if I completed and passed a short course in law and criminology. The next thing I knew, I had registered for the course. I passed it and began a part-time degree in Law LLB (Hons).

After five painstakingly years, I graduated with a 2:2 and I felt so happy that I had finally done it. My children, then 15 and 17, were so proud of me, as were my parents. This was a very big deal for me, as throughout my working life and my time in college / university, I was continuously facing scrutiny from my immediate family members, and the expectation that I should stay at home and take care of my daughters: studying and working was not the accepted norm in our culture. But I ploughed through and by graduating, I proved to all of them that there is more to life and a woman should not be so restricted. Given the opportunity, she too, can prove she has a place in this world.

This gave me even more confidence that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to become a solicitor and fulfill my life’s ambition, and that we would finally see the fruits of the sacrifices I had made for, and endured with, my children.

Despite a challenging financial situation, I went on to enroll at BPP Law School in Holborn to start my LPC in the hope that this would lead to a training contract, which I have now completed.

It’s been a long journey, and although I have not yet secured a training contract, I have not lost hope. I will continue applying in the search of my dream job. I know it’s around the corner, and I will do it!

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