A story that many immigrants will have in common is the one about leaving a comfortable life back home, arriving at a new place, and putting aside their own goals so they can work any job to support the family.
This was the reality for Michael Lim, whose family left a comfortable life in the Philippines for a chance at a better life here in Canada.
“We were kind of doing well in the Philippines, and then my mom wanted to have a change . . . just like any Filipino she wanted a better future for us,” he said. “And then she applied [to move here,] and then we got approved.”
The family managed a bake shop back in their home province of Nueva Ecija. Selling the business was a “tough call”, he said.
Michael’s family – his mother, sister, and brother – arrived in 2001, when Michael was 20 years old. In the Philippines, he was studying nursing, a job he had always wanted to do. But arriving in Canada he had to put that on hold.
“Back then I always wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t have a choice, to help my mom get established,” he said. This meant working a variety of jobs, including manual labor jobs, shifts at McDonald’s, cleaning jobs, and restaurant gigs.
But after several years of these types of jobs, it was time to go and finish his education.
“I think it was after five years of doing a restaurant job, as soon as I felt that my sister was old enough to work and she was able to help my mom with some finances, I decided to go back to school,” he said.
He applied to the well-respected nursing program at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC, graduated three years ago, and now works as a nurse.
“My mom told me before, education is very important. Going to school, getting a career, getting established, you really have to do it for you to succeed,” he said.
When Michael had finished school and established his career, he wanted to pick up a new challenge.
“I’m into fitness and eating right, and as soon as I was done my schooling, I thought I’d do something different, and push myself to another level,” he said.
It was his friend, a former competitive bodybuilder, that prompted him into considering the competitive side of fitness just last year. After several months of hard training, Michael is now preparing himself to enter his first competitive bodybuilding competition this coming November, the Sandra Wickham Fall Classic, in the Physique category. He is hoping for a top-5 finish, which will see him advance on to Provincial competitions. If he doesn’t make it, he is going to reload and try again at another competition in March.
Michael explained how strict competition training regiment sees him go to the gym three times a day, seven days a week. “It’s crazy . . . it takes a hard toll on your body. It’s just crazy, but I like it,” he said.
Despite the gruelling training schedule, he has never felt better, and he wants others to try it out too.
“I feel happier, I feel great, I’m confident . . . I eat healthy and eat clean. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so it’s really a lifestyle change. I always recommend to a lot of people, not necessarily to compete in bodybuilding, but to just do a lifestyle change when it comes to eating and exercising,” he said.
From working manual labor and shift jobs at McDonald’s, to finishing his education and becoming a nurse, and now to pushing himself even further in his pursuits as a pro bodybuilder, Michael is now reaping the promise of what his mother sought when she brought his family to Canada in the first place: a better, and happier, future for them all.
“I feel safe living here [in Canada]. I feel like there’s a lot of opportunities to grow, be it in your career, or your hobbies. I just love it here,” he said.
Follow Michael’s journey through his Instagram account: instagram.com/franzmickey