Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Akemi-Hara Ogle (+Video)


Seeking adventures and a new beginning, I came to Canada in 1991. It was a long journey to get here, halfway around the world, a roller coaster ride in my life. My beautiful shoes represent who I was and the incredible journey to the Bow Valley. I thought, “Money could buy happiness.” 


My shoes are beautiful, a combination of chocolate brown and shiny black leather, designed by Coco Chanel and handcrafted in Italy. They are stylish but not comfortable to walk in and not really practical for outdoor activities. I fell in love with them at first sight, and without hesitation, bought them when I was in New York City for a business trip. I was young and had a career as an international travel agent. Even though the shoes were very expensive, Japan’s economy was booming at that time, and everyone had disposable income. I thought, “Money could buy happiness.” 

Seeking adventures and a new beginning, I landed in Toronto in August 1991. I explored the new world opening up for me. I went to an English Language School, stayed with a Canadian family, and made new friends. Although everything I saw and experienced in Canada was so very different from my home country, Japan, I still thought my shoes would be a good fit here, even though I never wore them. 

In late October, I moved to Vancouver and started my job search in the hospitality industry. I liked Vancouver because the weather was similar to Japan. I thought my shoes would still be a good fit here. A friend from an employment agency helped me find a job in Banff.

I settled in the Bow Valley in late 1991, where I fell in love with a young Canadian who loved nature, the mountains and was learning Japanese. We met at the hotel where we both worked, and when my working holiday visa expired, he came to Japan with me. One year later, we returned together to the Bow Valley.  Two years later, I received my permanent residence status and, in 2001, gave birth to my son. After over 25 years together, my husband and I divorced, and I became a single parent. My marriage was not the happy ending I had hoped for, but I’m happy where I am now, in my own cozy home I share with my lovely 17-year-old son.

Since I came to Canada, I lost, and then regained, my powerful voice, as I had to learn to speak English and communicate again. In Banff, I have worked as a housekeeper, a restaurant server, a hotel front desk agent and finally became a professional travel counsellor after many years. 

In 2010, I decided to change my career, and I have been working for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation for the past eight years. The Stoney First Nation has a very rich culture, which has some similarities to my own.

Now in 2019, I find myself reflecting that it was a long journey to get here, halfway around the world, a roller coaster ride in my life. Although I have matured and changed, there is always one pair of shoes I have kept off to the side that reminds me of where I came from. My beautiful shoes. 

These shoes were a perfect fit in my past, but they will never fit my current life.  I lost myself and my confidence in transition. When I look down today, I see my muddy, black, slip-on shoes, with thick soles that I wear for work. My current shoes are not stylish but practical for walking, and they represent my adventure, independence, and inner strength. 

I wonder what my future holds. Even though I do not wear them anymore, I still keep my Chanel shoes deep in my closet as a memory of what I left behind. At this stage in my life, I realize that money can’t buy happiness, and my present happiness is more important than things. Still, I will hold onto my shoes a little bit longer.

AKEMI-HARA OGLE has called the Bow Valley her home for over 20 years, and her son was born in Banff. She has worked at the Stoney Nakoda Child and Family Services in Morley as an Accounting Technician for the past eight years. She loves yoga, swimming, hiking, biking, stand-up paddleboarding, downhill, and cross-country skiing.

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