Not About the Shoes (+video)

Not About the Shoes

Carolina Bejarano


Some came, some left, and some are still here. This is the story of how one woman from Mexico City made Kingston her home, and the shoes that brought her here.


I had never really given much thought to my shoes. They were always there, available to take me back and forth. Until, gradually, they weren’t.

It all started as a process of natural selection, when only a few of them made it from my beloved Mexico City to Kingston, here in Canada.

My favorite among them, the ones I wore on my first flight here, were a pair of leather riding boots; they were the first to go. The damage the snow and salt did to them was too expensive for me to get repaired. Next, it was a pair of black velvet pumps I used to wear for work in my big-city job: mold devoured them within weeks. It had quietly crept in from the cold walls of our dark basement apartment.

I lost a pair of rich-brown loafers as well. Their soles were not made for me to walk and stand on

for eight hours a day, every day, while trying to keep my survival job, and my bills paid. Walking

hurt, quite literally.

There were days when I didn’t want to wear any shoes at all, and I didn’t even miss the ones I had lost. I simply wanted to stay in bed and not talk to anyone. I would walk around my apartment barefoot and then cry under my sheets. My life had shifted in a way I never expected. It was rough, it was tiring, it was lonely, and it was sad.

No one wanted to give me a job where I could wear fancy shoes again; no one believed I was capable. Often, not even me.

Then there was the social aspect. Making friends is hard when you are new, when you don’t know the inside jokes, when you look different, sound different, and mostly, think differently.  

But things began to slowly change. Something deep inside me kept trying. One day I had enough money to buy a pair of sandals I had seen on other girls. I wanted to fit in, but the sandals were heavy and hurt my feet. We weren’t meant to last; on my first trip back to Mexico, I forgot them at my sister’s house.  

People come to Canada to have a better life. And most of the time, that dream comes true, but not always, and most certainly not right away. Some of us lose a lot in order to start here with very little. Some of us lose money, status, family, comfort, and even ourselves to come here. Yes, it is our choice, but if anything, that can make it harder. We had other choices and still, we chose to go through this.

Then, again I was able to buy another pair of shoes I liked, Doc Martens. Classic and tough, but I have a dog now and she bit them voraciously one day when I went out. These I didn’t lose completely; I still have them as a reminder to take better care of my shoes and the things I love.

Life has evolved for me, and I like to believe I have also evolved along the way.

These days I mostly spend my time in a pair of white canvas shoes. They are simple, easy to put on, and comfortable for walking and dancing.

Now I know it was not shoes that were moving me forward. It was just me, kicking to stay afloat, trying to put one step in front of the other, fighting from within my skin. Now I know that all I really need to find my way is me and my bare feet.

Caro Bejarano writes from her desk, from a bus stop, an old chair in the doctor’s office, a wobbly table in a coffee shop, or from a quiet bench in the park. Always with pen and paper ready, this is what has allowed her to keep walking.

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