So I bought some new shoes. Really snazzy, expensive running shoes. As I am now an athlete, it seemed only fitting that I have the shoes to match. Perhaps I should mention that I am a middle-aged, slightly klutzy, first time athlete. But I am an athlete, none the less. My new shoes tell me so. And I am starting to believe them.
For some reason, possibly too much time on my hands, I started to think of the shoes I have owned over my lifetime. Each stage had a pair of shoes to match. I could be somebody, just by putting them on.
When I was little, I wanted to please. Specifically, I wanted to please my father. My father believed that if you praised a child too much, he or she would get a swelled head. But he always praised good grades, so I loved school. In late August I would get my new school shoes. As the youngest of seven children, anything new was a BIG DEAL. I remember trying those shoes on about a million times and walking around the bedroom, admiring them. My mom telling me repeatedly to take them off. It didn’t matter that they were sensible and brown, they were new and they were mine. That first day of school, I’d be bubbling with equal parts excitement and nervousness, walking down the sidewalk with my sisters in my new shoes. I can still feel the September sunshine on my face as I dreamt of how fabulous this school year was going to be. Rarely did it live up to my hype.
My rebellious phase came on rather suddenly, with a pair of cheap, black, boys’ high top running shoes and some hand-me-down jeans. Up to that point, I wore nothing but polyester, and attended mass at the convent. Those shoes, jeans, and boys all seemed to appear on the same day. I loved those running shoes. They made me feel bad-ass. I started hanging out with the cool kids. Started smoking grass at recess behind the one big tree at the edge of the school yard. And by grass, I mean actual grass…you know, the kind you cut with your lawnmower. I wore those shoes until they fell apart. Boy, did they stink by the end.
High school brought Earth shoes. Do you remember those? They were ugly then and they are ugly now. Really, Google it. But wearing them meant I was hip, or at least I hoped I was. God knows, I tried hard enough. I was at a new school with a lot of new people, and desperately trying to find my place. While my head was swimming with insecurities, bobbing about in that adolescent sea, those shoes were my anchor. I think I actually had my first French kiss in those shoes. It only took 3 tries to get it right. And I think he was wearing Earth shoes too.
By the time I hit my 20’s, I was struggling with self-worth in a big way. I was a beautiful young woman who saw only ugliness, desperate to find someone to make me clean. I owned a pair of 4-inch, black patent heels I called my fuck-me shoes. Pretty self-explanatory. Yeah. Not the highlight of my life. But sometimes you have to visit the dark places to appreciate the light. I am forever grateful for that time of my life.
The years that followed have been marked with various shoes…silk wedding shoes, white duty shoes, then back full circle to sensible, arch supporting, ones. Sometimes my shoes complement my current mood. Sometimes they’re just an afterthought. My red, suede, peek-a-boo shoes make me feel sassy, but I can feel sassy barefoot in my housecoat too. My new runners are beauties, but honestly, they were the ones that fit my orthotics and gave me lots of wiggle room for my toes.
I no longer walk around my bedroom, dreaming of adventures. Now, I live my life, happy to be in the here and now. Happy to know that I don’t need shoes, or anything else, to make me fabulous. Happy just to have the sun shining on my face as I write this.