Feeling Free and Judged
I knew that I would not stay and live in Iran from the age of fifteen. I loved my family and friends, but it was clear that I couldn’t become who I wanted to be there. Now, my brown leather shoes are as beautiful as my memories from my home country of Iran. When I wore them on my journey to Canada, their hard and inflexible sole felt uncomfortable. I have decided not to wear my brown leather shoes very much here. Wearing them just once in a while reminds me of who I was and how much has changed in my life.
I was born and raised along the Persian Gulf in South Iran. Summertime in my hometown was always extremely hot and humid, and I dreaded it. When I was little, we would drive seven hours to my mother’s hometown near the Zagros Mountains to escape the heat. We would visit my aunt and cousins, and I loved our holidays in that mountain town. It was always cool there in summer, and they never used their air conditioner. I could play outside with my cousins among grapevine trees on a summer day. I loved waking up early in the morning, feeling the cool breeze sweeping through open windows. It was as if the mountains themselves were inviting me to play as a child, free and light, dancing like a feather in the air.
When I was eighteen, I decided to study in Tehran, which has cooler weather. I wanted to escape the heat and start a new life. I enjoyed the feeling of independence, but I still couldn’t be who I yearned to be. Everything in society was monitored by the government, from my beliefs to what I wore or where I went. I was not rebellious, but one day, I knew it was time to be myself.
After I finished my studies in Tehran, I immigrated to Canada, but before this exciting trip, I went to a bazaar to buy a few items. I saw a pair of camel-coloured handmade leather shoes, which seemed perfect to wear on my flight to Canada. They looked beautiful. They were handmade, and the stitches reminded me of the Persian hand-woven carpets that covered the floor of each room in my house. These shoes had a simple design. They were modest and practical like the Iranian people.
When I wore them on my journey to Canada, their hard and inflexible sole felt uncomfortable. With each step away from my country, I felt that I was not myself anymore. It was a familiar feeling to me. The hard sole of these Iranian handmade shoes limited my comfort and movement like the Iranian government limits the freedom of its people, something that always bothered me.
The first morning that I woke up in the Rocky Mountains, I felt as if I had returned to my childhood and the Zagros Mountains. I felt free again. My house blinds are always open. I can see outside and don’t need to protect myself from hot sunshine. Here, I can be the one who controls my own movement and direction of my journey in my new life.
I began watching the news in Canada, but I changed my mind. Everything was negative and judgemental about the Middle East, the area that I came from. It was sad to watch the news and read comments online about issues and people who live there. I could never find anything beautiful about the Middle East or Iranian people in the news. I thought, does it mean there is no beauty to show?
When I wore my brown leather shoes and immigrated, I never thought that people would judge me because of the country where I was born. Today I am a Canadian citizen, but people still ask me where I came from. I see their question from a narrow view of my country, and I wish I could change that.
Although I love them and they bring back memories, I have decided not to wear my brown leather shoes, with their hard sole, very often here. Wearing them just once in a while reminds me of who I was and how much has changed in my life.
NEDA MADANIAN immigrated to Waterloo, Canada, from Iran, in July 2011. Neda has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Management, and she is very interested in Social Work Studies. In January 2013, she moved to Canmore, where she works for the Canmore Public Library. She enjoys living in the mountains and learning downhill and cross-country skiing. Neda is married and has a daughter.