The Shoe “Ting” Star
Ting Pimentel Elger
I was a single mom with a 16-year-old son, and I’d already had my share of broken hearts, failures and disappointments. But I’m a dreamer. One night, I saw a shooting star, and I quickly wished for the right guy to come along. Soon afterwards, I met a funny, smart and kind-hearted Canadian man online. He sent me flowers and spent hundreds of dollars on long distance calls before crossing the continent to meet me and my family for the first time. And now it was my turn to travel to his world.
I did not own more than 3,000 pairs of shoes like our infamous former first lady, but I did buy a pair of Mary Janes for this trip. They were strong and sturdy but soft and cushy inside. When you wore them, you felt fully supported. If only the world around me had been the same. My family and church friends wondered why I would leave a good-paying job in Manila, as well as a family and community who loved me. Truthfully, I was also conflicted about my decision.
That was more than 19 years ago, the year the twin towers fell along with my job aspirations. I was told I could only expect a food service job, but I did not give up. I soon landed an administrative position. Instantly, I became obsessed with doing my job perfectly.
The following year my Mary Janes were too small because there was a baby coming. I was considered high risk, but I rocked it riding the bus, waddling like a duck on icy sidewalks and cleaning other people’s houses as a second job. After my daughter was born, I had baby blues, but I ignored them. Work became my addiction, not alcoholism like my father and brother suffered from. I was trying to prove to everybody that an immigrant like me could achieve something.
“It is easy to fit in but harder to belong,” Brene Brown said. I was desperate to feel that sense of belonging. I was so sensitive about how I spoke, how I ate, even how I crossed the streets. I prioritized work over my family and my wellbeing, and all to achieve what? After more than a decade of hustling, I was burned out, anxious and depressed.
When I was offered an opportunity to coordinate a Christian mission trip to Manila I said yes, thinking that I would feel better if I went home. I was as excited as when I’d left ten years ago. There were cheers from my kababayans (fellow Filipinos) when the airplane landed. (People were coming home after working abroad to earn dollars for their families.) I had forgotten how the massive wall of humid air felt when you stepped out of the terminal. And the symphonic chorus of horns and street vendors.
There was a homecoming feast of Filipino food, including stinky dried fish. I loved waking up to the cock-a-doodle-doo (or tiktilaok) of roosters. But after a week, I began to miss Edmonton, my quiet walks in the river valley (even with my mascara bleeding from the cold ), and the Canadian geese flying overhead, across the big, beautiful prairie skies. Most of all, I missed the drooly kisses of my daughter, chats with my son and even arguments with my husband, which usually ended in laughter about my lame attempts to swear in Taglish. I missed my true home, with my family, where I belong.