Boots of Courage

Sangeetha Nair


“Failing is better than not trying at all,” and Sangeetha’s “boots of courage” have been her preferred footwear for trying all the new and exciting experiences that living in Canada brings.


Most immigrants will tell you that the process of resettlement can be very challenging. I learned early on that the best way to survive is by doing the things that make me happy. 


A few weeks before my refugee hearing, I bought myself a pair of hiking boots from a sports store in downtown Winnipeg. I had my eyes on this brown pair for a while. They are weatherproof, warm, and sturdy: ideal for Winnipeg winter weather. They were also expensive—the most money I have ever spent on shoes. 


When I first saw these boots, I hesitated to buy them. As much as I needed good winter boots, I was afraid of committing to owning a pair because I worried every day might be my last one here. I was waiting for my refugee case to be approved, and I was constantly afraid of being asked to leave. I did not want to leave Canada, Winnipeg, the city I’d grown fond of—or my mother. But I was ready to walk in faith the day I bought these boots. Great things happen when I wear these boots.


In 2010, my mother and I heard on the news that Queen Elizabeth was visiting Winnipeg. We wanted to see the queen in person but had no idea how to make that happen. But that didn’t stop us from trying. It was going to rain that day, so I wore my trusted boots. My mom bought some flowers because, according to her, “You can’t visit the Queen empty-handed!”


We headed to The Forks, where the Queen was scheduled to make a speech. I followed my mother as she squeezed through the crowd until she ended up at the front beside the stage. We saw the Queen! She was so close I could have reached out and touched her. My mom presented Her Majesty with the bouquet, and, to our surprise, my mother received a thank you note from Buckingham Palace a few weeks later. She was so delighted!


These boots have also taken me across Canada to see my favourite bands and singers perform. I wore them to see Adele in Montreal. I stood in them as I watched Coldplay in Edmonton, Rob Thomas in Ontario, and Beyonce in Winnipeg. 


I couldn’t get tickets in advance for any of the shows outside Winnipeg. But wearing my boots, I would fly to other cities and show up at the venue, believing something good would happen. And it always did. I always got tickets even when they were sold out before the show. I told myself that the universe would do its part if I did mine. And if I didn’t get tickets, at the very least, I’d have visited a new Canadian city and made memories. 

My friends are constantly amazed that I would do things like this. They tell me they would never dare to do what I do. But failing is better than not trying at all. 


That day when I decided to invest in these boots of courage, I set the tone for how I would live the rest of my life. I promised myself I would put my best foot forward regardless of the outcome. I would learn new skills and push myself out of my comfort zone. I would commit myself to the things that I am passionate about.


I lost my refugee case, but after filing for an appeal, I was granted permission to stay in Canada. That was fourteen years ago. In that time, I have learned that if you choose to be open to possibilities and not be afraid of failure, life will bless you with unforgettable experiences. 

Born in Malaysia, Sangeetha is an advocate for equality and accessibility in mental health and education. She is the Director of Finance and Operations at Career Trek, a non-profit organization providing career education and opportunities to marginalized children in Manitoba. She has won the Premier’s Volunteer Service Award. She hopes to live a purposeful life and travel the world. Sangeetha’s belief in the healing power of sharing stories led her to The Shoe Project.

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