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Maria’s Story

Have you ever wondered why there is a saying “Life Begins at 40”? I reflected on this and made sure that I celebrate my 40th birthday big with people close to me to welcome this decade with excitement, fun and optimism.    

I am Maria Castro.  I immigrated from the Philippines and arrived in YVR in 2004 with a couple of luggage and tons of enthusiasm.  

Since I immigrated, I have received countless blessings. I only knew a couple of friends in Vancouver but met wonderful strangers along the way who became my lifelong friends and helped me in my journey.  I was excited about starting a new life in my new home.

I did find a job and worked my way up to a management role and life was amazing! I was living in a blissful bubble for a good 12 years, where I felt shielded and protected from the adversities of life. Then, one day, the bubble burst. 

For a period of two years, couple of months after my 40th birthday, my life turned upside down.  I was experiencing a cluster of hardships in my personal and professional life. 

The condo building I was living in burst into flames and left all of its residents, including myself, homeless overnight. I watched in horror as the fire quickly engulfed almost all the units. I was praying fervently that the fire will not reach my unit.  It was traumatic and devastating to be displaced from my home at a snap of a finger.  

The following year, I received a call from my sister in the Philippines that our dad had passed away in his sleep. A few months later, my best friend, who was consoling me at that time, collapsed and died while shopping at the mall.  

I had also become dissatisfied with my job which was dear to me and realized it was time for me to leave. I felt lost and deeply distressed that my grieving does not seem to end at that time.  In a span of two years, my life was completely shaken. I lost the reference. All of a sudden, all those events dramatically changed my life before my eyes. I felt lonely, anxious, insecure, and find myself crying on my drive to and from work.  

When I decided to change jobs, my mother – who was once a Dress for Success client – sent me the Career Center newsletter. I met with an HR professional, who graciously helped me update and improve my resume. I was delighted at how she pointed out her recommendations, which gave me the confidence to seek new employment being out of the job market for 10 years. I landed a good job. At that moment, I knew and I deeply felt that the beginning of my involvement with DFSV had just begun. 

During that period of trials, Dress for Success Vancouver became my saving grace, helping me to recover from the trauma these events have brought me.  I learned the value of support and sisterhood during these challenging times.

The Dress for Success Vancouver community was there for me and I valued the concern and support I received at the most difficult time of my life. I attended a number of the Career Centre workshops on personal development that provided me tools to heal and deal with my grief and struggles. The supportive and safe environment of the Professional Women’s Group told me I was not alone, that there are other women who listen, lend a helping hand, and can relate to my experience. I am so grateful for the sisterhood, networking and mentoring through Dress for Success Vancouver. I continue to be inspired by the women the organization serves and the stories of overcoming adversities and successes they achieve.

I decided to become a Dress for Success Ambassador to give back some of what I received from Dress for Success and to encourage other women who might be facing adversities. Women need a supportive community that makes a difference in their lives. Being a DSFV ambassador allows me to be a voice for the organization’s mission, to represent and encourage more women to be part of this amazing community.  I hope my story of resilience can inspire other women to realize their full potential and see challenges as part of life’s journey and use that to feel empowered to be the best version of themselves.   

Remember I asked if life begins at 40? My answer is Yes!  

And what I mean is “Real life begins at 40”.  Coping with adversities, bouncing back and becoming successful again with a community of women who supports you is what makes life worth living.  It is what makes me celebrate life again.

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The Dress for Success Vancouver community was there for me during a difficult time in my life.