The Shoes with a Bouncing Soul
Mary Ann Mohal
I always dreamed of creating a comfortable life for my family. But coming from a poor family, I knew I’d have to leave the Philippines to find greener pastures. I was naive, impulsive and vulnerable, so things did not turned out as planned. But at every turning point in my life, I had the company of my all-time favourite shoes, my Doc Martens.
I grew up dreaming of a comfortable life and wearing fashionable clothes, living in a big house and having a car. Unfortunately, my family was not well-to-do. My father’s income was just enough to support our daily needs. I told myself that when I finished university, I would go overseas and work. In order to make these dreams come true, I had to work while I studied. I managed to pay for school and help my family financially by working full time at KFC. When I got my first paycheque, I gave myself a treat: a pair of brown, baby doll Doc Martens—my dream shoes, also known as “the shoes with a bouncing soles”.
Years later, I was still wearing them when I marched across the stage to receive my degree, a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. A few days later, I reached another milestone: I gave birth to my son. But the marriage between his father and me broke up, so I had to find a way to raise my son alone. I moved to Singapore where I lived and worked as a restaurant manager for seven years. I became a permanent resident, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring my son to live with me. I missed celebrating many special occasions in his childhood, and I felt so guilty being away from him, especially when he was sick and I wasn’t there to take care of him. I had to make a different plan.
One day, I got a job offer to be a food counter attendant in a coffee shop in Canada. It was a low-status position compared to my job in Singapore, but I would have the chance to get permanent resident status and bring my son. I grabbed the opportunity and moved to Canada in 2014. I got myself a new pair of Doc Martens to celebrate this new chapter. This time it was smooth leather, lace-up boots.
Later that year, I met a guy who was 14 years older than me. I was naive. Mr. X promised me the moon and the stars, and I believed him. We got married in 2016 and had a daughter. Mr. X sponsored me to become a permanent resident in 2017, but then I saw his true colours. He abused me physically, emotionally, verbally, mentally, financially and sexually. I could endure all the pain in our marriage, but when he slapped our daughter, I knew I had to get out! I reported him to the police and left. It was the most important turning point of my life so far.
My daughter and I moved to a women’s shelter. They helped me build up my confidence again. By the middle in 2018, I managed to bring my son to Canada, and in 2019, I decided to go to Norquest College and train to be a community support worker, focusing on immigration. I don’t even mind that Mr. X doesn’t pay his child support. I am not after his money. All I want is to raise my daughter in a healthy environment.
I still have that first pair of Doc Martens. Like them, I am dependable, flexible and durable. Sometimes I stumble and fall, but by the grace of God, I always manage to bounce back up on my feet.