My Hercules Shoes

Mojde Nikmanesh


While she is living as a refugee in Turkey, political activist, global warming, the lost hopes of the Arab Spring, and racism fill Mojde Nikmanesh with despair. When she comes to Canada, she becomes a nurse to make a difference in the world. Her white nursing shoes with toes as round as a smile give her power, purpose, and hope.


Oh, man! These shoes are really white. I keep staring at them. I know if I turn my eyes, my tears are going to fall….I love looking down at these shoes. Their round toes give an affirmative smile that says, “Fight the exhaustion and sleepless nights and keep going.” I feel so proud to put them on. They are my Hercules shoes.

These shoes give me the power to combat all the world’s shortcomings and disasters. The sheen of tears in my eyes doesn’t let me see them clearly now, but just as I know my determination to do something worthwhile is inside me, I know those white shoes are on my feet. 

I was listening to my teacher at the long-term facility where I had my first clinical placement as a nurse: “You put a smile on many faces with your nursing care. I’ve received very good feedback for your performance,” she said. My teacher’s comment gave me a pleasant sense of satisfaction mixed with emotional turbulence. Is this really happening? Am I actually doing it? Maybe the world is not collapsing, after all. 

A year ago, I told my sister on the phone that I wanted to be a nurse like her. Remembering me as a sensitive girl who had to leave the country five years ago, she said, “It seems you’ve forgotten how scared you were when I wanted to teach you how to do an injection.”

I protested, “Oh, I do remember. You shouted at me, ‘Why are you such a coward? It’s just a needle. I will tell you exactly how to inject it’. And I replied, ‘I’m not a coward, but when I see this needle, I imagine the pain you’ll feel, and I can’t bear to watch your suffering.’” 

Then, my sister asked, “So what’s different now?” and I said, “This time, I know I might not be able to end the suffering, but I’m determined to help my patients through the suffering.”

Exhausted from living in exile as a political activist for two years, when I arrived in Canada, I kept arguing with everyone. I said the world was heading to disaster. I thought about global warming, discrimination, racism, war, terrorist attacks, just to name a few. I said, “Nothing is going to change, and if it does change, it’ll be for the worse. Look what happened after the Iranian revolution, Arab Spring and now the Syrian uprising.”

I can’t do anything. I don’t have enough power to make people remember the importance of compassion, respect and peace again. Living as a refugee in Turkey had given me time to rethink my idealism and realize that a fundamental change at the global level is impossible. Disillusioned and worn-out with political talks and slogans, I considered my life in Canada to be a second chance. 

I didn’t want to talk about what changes are necessary to save the world anymore. Instead, I’ve decided to change myself and take practical steps towards what can make the world a better place. Nursing seemed the best profession to carry out that mission. This time nothing could stop me. Not even fear of needles and blood. 

Now, one year later, here I am wearing these white shoes. They are part of a nurse’s uniform, but for me, they are my source of power: the power of healing. Saying goodbye to my clients at the long-term care, I felt fortunate to have had the privilege of making a positive impact on someone’s life. 

Walking down the hallway for the last time, I looked at my white shoes and thanked them for their lightweight and supportive laces that allow me to run quickly any time I hear a nurse call buzz. I thanked them for their full-grain leather at the top that protects my feet from any danger and for the slip-resistant bottom that gives me steady and stable steps. I especially thanked them for giving me power, purpose and hope that I can make a difference. One life at a time.

MOJDE NIKMANESH is a women’s rights activist from Iran who dreams about an equal, peaceful world for all human beings.

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