Thomas is my bridge to Finland and my anchor to it. Sometimes I’m exhausted and I feel for him. He is not only my husband but also my best friend. I met Thomas in Baroda in Gujarat, India. I was working as a volunteer in an organisation called AIESEC. No one back then wanted to go to India, they wanted to go to Canada or Europe. I thought those were holiday destinations, but you would not to go India, especially not Baroda, so I wanted to do it.
I went to India in October 2002 and he came in November. Thomas was my flatmate and he came through AIESEC too. He was going to work for another company, but we had houses where we stayed together. My first impression of Thomas was everything you could think of about a Finn, stereotype-wise. It’s funny, because he is a very warm person, but when he was going to live in my house I said, “hello, nice to meet you” and he just nodded instead of saying, “hello, nice to meet you too”. I wasn’t so convinced that I wanted him as a flatmate.
YESMITH: “I told Thomas that I had never thought of getting married, but that I could marry him.”
Shortly later he got very sick; I remember he got some stomach infection and fever. I have always had this very maternal instinct – maybe it’s a Mexican thing; I always feel that you should help people who are sick. So I asked him if he wanted tea. He said no, but I made some anyway. He was hallucinating and then he asked me if I would marry him. He can’t remember saying that, but I have witnesses. I was 22 then.
I knew very soon that I wanted to be with him because I had never felt like that about anyone else. I called my mother and told her that I have met the man I will marry. My mum didn’t know what to say. I told Thomas that I had never thought of getting married, but that I could marry him. Later, we went travelling in India together and when we got to the Taj Mahal in March 2003 he asked me what I was planning to do in June 2005. I couldn’t think of anything I’d be doing, so he asked, “Will you marry me?” I was like, “Yes, let’s do it.”
I was 32 when I had my first child. Somehow when I was young I never thought I would have a husband, but I always thought I would have a child and that that would happen by my 30th, but at 30 I was so happy with Thomas that I thought maybe we don’t need anybody else. We were so free and travelling so much, and in Finland I had to try so hard every day so I thought that I can’t try for another person too. When we decided to try for a baby, I thought that it was a perfect age to have a baby and we had done so many things together as a couple – and I had done everything I wanted to do with my life.
YESMITH: “People always scare you by telling you that when you have a child everything is over and you have to live for the child, you can’t go to the cinema and all sorts. It’s not true.”
Also, I guess it’s a good age to have a child when you get to a certain peace and state of mind. I mean this is something I learned when I went to Rio to stay for two months when I was 30 and I was able to see all these very beautiful people there. But when you are 30 you don’t want to be beautiful anymore in that sense, it does not bother you not to be perfect. You are fine observing pretty people without wanting to be them and you don’t treat yourself so harshly.
I think people always scare you by telling you that when you have a child everything is over and you have to live for the child, you can’t go to the cinema and all sorts. It’s not true. It’s a new life, but you must continue being yourself. I think you should not push anyone to have a baby and if you don’t know if you want one, I’d say it’s better if you don’t do it. I always thought that my relationship was good, but when I got pregnant it got even better.
We had Luna in the summer of 2012 in Helsinki. I was scared at the Naistenklinikka (Women’s hospital) that I wouldn’t be able to communicate in English. That was my fear. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to speak in English, because when you’re giving birth you’re in such a primitive state. I didn’t feel the pain, but they said that it was a hard delivery.
It’s a silly reason why I like the name Luna. Your children leave you, but the moon is always there. And she is Luna Mia, so ‘my moon’. I think it’s nice; my name does not mean anything. I suspect my mum made it up. In Mexico they just call me ‘Jasmin’. I asked my mum when I was young why my name didn’t mean anything. People made fun of me in school because the others were all Alexandras and Leticias – and then me. My mum used to say that my name was a princess’s name from a faraway country and my dad was like, “Nope, mom made it up.” I don’t think people are mean when they don’t get the name right; they just try and make it fit their own language.
YESMITH: “I think our generation is spoiled with the travelling; everything just seems so easy. I think also that things must be very well for us here when we have time to complain about the weather.”
My parents came to Finland when Luna was born. They had never been on a plane and then they were coming to Finland. It was a good experience for them. They stayed for three weeks. I think our generation is spoiled with the travelling; everything just seems so easy. I think also that things must be very well for us here when we have time to complain about the weather. If that’s the problem then we have no problems. It was very refreshing to see Finland through my parents’ eyes. My dad is an electrician and it was funny to see how he was looking at the electrical installations and wondering how they were done. It was summer and they were amazed by the amount of flowers and berries.
I was very much a workaholic when I was in Mexico, but I didn’t know it when I was there. I didn’t understand when people said, “Oh, finally it’s weekend!” I didn’t get it. I thought it was a pleasure and privilege to work. When I came here I was forced to break from a respected position. I thought my mum would be disappointed if I didn’t work and I was thinking that she would be proud if I did. Then I got into Hanken. I think as a foreigner your profession in Finland becomes a big thing because it’s not clear that you can make it here. That’s why it’s important to build something that helps people find meaning for them as persons and professionals.
After my second baby, Max, I found it even harder to restart my career. I used to work with communications and business development. Even if during my maternity leave I kept myself busy working all the time for a children’s festival, when it was time to find a job my existing skills seemed archaic. I considered doing a PhD and I prepared a research proposal for Hanken about how entrepreneurship can be a career choice for highly qualified self-initiated expatriates and how that affects their integration in Finland. I was not accepted but thanks to that I got involved in The Shortcut, an organisation I currently work for.
At The Shortcut we are not so interested about what people have done in the past so much what their interests and potential are. I like to think that we spark the curiosity in people to consider startups as a career path. You don’t have the skills? Learn them. It is never too late or too soon. At the end of the day, even if you choose not to use them, the worst case scenario is learning something. And learning never harmed anybody.
Interview by Peter Seenan recorded in Helsinki, Finland in 2017. If you wish to support our work in projecting the voices and achievements of immigrants in Finland please like our Facebook page and share Yesmith’s story.