Stepping High in My Cowboy Boots
Serap Tezgel (+Video)
There is nothing as seductive as reality. Starting a new life in a new country was not as easy as it seemed in the cowboy movies of my childhood in Turkey. In Canada, no one cared about my life. I had to become my own hero to overcome obstacles and create a new life with a new career as a social worker. The challenges I faced did not kill me. They made me resilient like many nameless heroes.
A cold April evening. On my feet, high-heeled ankle boots. I was walking in downtown Toronto to a restaurant to meet a new friend. Actually, I had made no close friends since coming to Canada.
To native English speakers, I was one of the “others” because of my “distinctive” English. For Turks, who see Kurds as enemies, I was someone they cannot be friends with. For Kurds who wave their Kurdish identity like a flag, I was too assimilated because of my Turkish language education. I felt in a vacuum, othered in every respect. I spent my time hiding my Kurdish identity like a wound.
Finally, however, I was walking downtown to have dinner with someone I had recently met. My boots had warm, brown tones. But they were not warm. They were elegant, thin-soled saloon boots that could be worn only on urban streets. They had zippers on the inside and buckles on the outside, which gave them a cowboy look. I always feel strong wearing them, but they were not designed to protect me from the harsh cold of Canada. My feet were freezing.
I had brought these shoes to Canada because I liked their similarity to the cowboy boots in the American western movies I used to watch when I was little. Like most of my peers, I loved to watch them. Their adventures inspired us to play cowboys. Cowboys had adventures and dreams. They were heroes of the land. Riding on their horses, they seemed to own the land.
However, when I arrived in Toronto, I realized there was no place for the imaginary heroes of my childhood in this high-rise city. There was no place for my dreams. I was lost. I felt very small and invisible. Starting a new life in a new country was not easy.
I thought: Will I ever have land that I can say is my country? Will I ever find my place?
In Turkey, I studied public relations and worked as a journalist. Both fields depend on networking and language. I knew I would not find a similar job in Canada. Although I was tired of survival jobs, I did not know where and how to make the change. But I liked to help people, to be with them.
On that April evening, I was going to meet with a woman I had met for the first time in the coffee shop where I was working. We were both from Turkey. I never imagined when I migrated that I would miss having a conversation with someone in Turkish. We talked about many issues in our lives. My mind was like a mustang running from one topic to another. It felt so free to speak without worrying about making language mistakes.
That night in the restaurant was spectacular. The words danced in my mouth and exploded into the air like a volcano. By the end of the evening, my “future” picture was clear. I would become a social worker, a profession in which I could find solidarity with others like me.
When I walked out of the restaurant that night, my feet no longer felt cold. I smiled to myself. I was becoming my own hero, my own cowgirl! I could change my own life. All that hope.
Serap is a Kurdish woman. She was born in Turkey and worked as a journalist there. Recently, she moved from Ontario to Canada’s Northwest Territories where she is pursuing a new career in social work. She is aiming to organize a wellbeing program for immigrant women. She writes short stories and poems.