Stubborn As My Boots

Vickie Ramirez


In 2007, I was an ambitious young learner, studying for a master’s in architecture at the Central University of Chile, and dreaming about building a better world. It was December: the warmest and happiest month of the year. I was starting my two-month summer break. So, I made plans to spend Christmas with my mom in Edmonton, where she had moved eight months before with the promise of love. It didn’t work out, but that’s another story. After a 16-hour flight, I finally arrived in Canada. As I walked out of the Edmonton airport on Christmas Eve, I felt snowflakes melting on my face. What a privilege, I thought!


A few weeks later, I attended an event where I met a sweet and funny guy in a white hat—a Chilean! We fell in love, and he was the reason I would give up Chilean summers for the next 13 years and continue my education while establishing a long-distance family. I started this adventure flying back and forth between Chili and Canada by myself, then continued with a kid in my arms. 


After five years, another baby came along to join us in this wild life. I was working in a construction company full-time, doing freelance designs on weekends, and studying for my specialization at night. And wherever I went, I carried my ugly work boots from jobsite to jobsite. I ended up hating those dirty and heavy steel-toed boots,  especially when I was pregnant. Finally, however, I graduated, and it was time to move to Canada permanently.


I had closed the circle on a promise made 27 years before when I was six years old. One day before my mother left for work in the chocolate factory, I gave her a letter. It said, “I love you mom and I promise I’ll be a professional when I grow up.” Even at that age, I understood the struggles she had as a single mom. She always told me, “I want you to be more than me. Never depend on a man.” She still keeps my letter to this day.


But once I was in Edmonton, my plans got stuck. I had no English, no career and,   worst of all, no citizenship status for two years. I became a  stay-at-home-mom, a job title that I had never dreamed of having. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my family more than my life, but it wasn’t the picture I had imagined for myself. I was hungry to work, to design and even to wear my disgusting and muddy work boots. Instead, I saw my dreams were being taken away.


During this five years, I lost my confidence, gained weight and got older. I was ashamed and totally dependent on my husband. I was living the life my mother had advised me to avoid. Many times I wanted to run back to Chile. Honestly, as much as I loved him, there were also times I hated my husband. But now I understand that it wasn’t his fault. It was just the process. And he is ‘one of the good guys’. That realization and the birth of our daughter brought the light back to our family. 


After lots of ups and downs, I finally pushed myself to go outside and face the world. I overcame my fears and went back to school to train myself with Canadian education. Even though my English was far from perfect, I succeeded. I was determined to regain my independence. Thanks to that, I’m back working in my field. and I can proudly wear my dirty, horrendous but strong and lovely brown working boots.

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