What Shoes Teach Us About Life
The one thing that has been of great significance to me consists of a set of four things. Well, actually four pairs of the same thing. They are my four pairs of shoes: tan Sketchers, green Nikes, black Bostonians, and a pair of Scooby-Doo slippers. Collectively, they signify to me the four components of a well-rounded, fulfilling life. One represents the mundane routines of life. Another represents me developing my own unique persona, and the last two represent the polar opposites of work and play.
I will begin with the tan Sketchers. Stylistically, these shoes are tan, lace-less, with a flame design on the side opposite the insole and have roughly a half inch white trim around their base. These shoes symbolize the mundane routines of everyday life. Their relatively plain design represents how life is in large part lackluster from day to day. However, the small flame pattern reflects that one event, conversation, or gesture that makes each day worthwhile.
These [plain] days are necessary because without them, we would not appreciate the moments in life which are truly exceptional.
It represents the small act that makes each day different from the rest. Usually that one act is emotively charged for better or for worse, which is why flames, typically a symbol of passion, are an appropriate representation. This pair of shoes mirrors the part of life that bores people, the kind of situations that drag on as if never ending. It signifies the parts of life we wish we could just forget, with the exception of that small spark which is that one moment that we look forward to each day. These days are necessary because without them, we would not appreciate the moments in life which are truly exceptional.
The second set, a pair of green Nikes, embodies what makes each of us unique. More specifically, they signify becoming capable of thoughts, actions and motives, independent of those around you. They are a vibrant true green with a large Nike swoosh opposite the insole, with a radiant orange interior. Their bright colors suggest an optimistic, glass is half-full, perspective of life. When I was in Kohl’s searching for some new shoes this past autumn, this pair caught my eye for two reasons: one, because I love the color green, and two, more significantly, because no one else has shoes that even remotely resemble them. This time last year, I would not have been caught dead wearing anything different from the banal white or black tennis shoes seen on every foot that is not wearing high heels or flip flops. So, for me, they characterize the culmination of my new identity, capable of independent thought. Also, because they are athletic shoes, the toughest soled of all my shoes, and the unique, colorful shoes of my collection they led me to the realization that life without activity cannot be a fulfilling, cheerful life. Their toughness also leads me to believe that even when the terrain of life becomes near unbearable, we should use all in our power to maintain that cheery countenance because if everyone despaired when life got rough, then no one would ever be happy because sadly, much of life’s terrain is rugged.
The last two pairs signify wholly opposite aspects of life that are hard to balance for most of us, work and play. They are a pair of black Bostonians and fluffy Scooby-Doo slippers made in the likeness of the popular television cartoon character. The Bostonians are relatively rigid black shoes that require regular shining because of life’s many blemishes. On the other hand, the slippers are brown with black spots with the head of Scooby Doo positioned like a boat’s figure head near the tip, right above the toes. The Bostonians and the slippers symbolize work and play respectively.
The reason we adorn these uncomfortable but elegant footwear first is because work has its requirements, limits, and deadlines. Pleasure and rest have no such constraints. We do what is required of us first and foremost, so that we can enjoy the remaining varying amount of time to do what we enjoy in our Scooby-Doo slippers.
The former are meant to be worn from about eight to five each weekday and some times more, while the latter is advertised to be worn any other time. The formality of the Bostonians is necessary at work, but can be uncomfortable at times, which is why, when we return home, we do not continue to display our work attire. Most people, much like myself, like to slip into something a little more comfortable and that is why I have Scooby-Doo. He’s vital to relaxation and fun. For me, he signifies the goofy times I share with my friends after school, relaxation on the weekends, or family time during the Holidays.
It may be tempting to have fun with Scooby all the time, but it takes discipline to know that much of the time, the rigidity of the Bostonians are necessary. Their simple, elegant design signifies an ability to focus on the task at hand, pay the bills, or meet with the boss. Tasks like these are uninteresting, but a necessary part of life. The reason we adorn these uncomfortable but elegant footwear first is because work has its requirements, limits, and deadlines. Pleasure and rest have no such constraints. We do what is required of us first and foremost, so that we can enjoy the remaining varying amount of time to do what we enjoy in our Scooby-Doo slippers.
Despite the dissimilarity between these shoes, or aspects of life, there is one subtle but important quality that they share. It takes work to put them on, take them off, and to move around in them. Shoes are not meant for a sedentary existence. They are meant to be worked. This fact bears some significance. It signifies that no matter who you are, work, or activity, is a necessary part of life, whether it is physical labor, exercise, or recreation. As Nancy Sinatra so elegantly put it, “These boots are made for walkin’ and that’s just what they’ll do.” Life is meant for seizing the day, not waiting until it seizes you.
I submitted this essay when I was applying to be a National Merit Finalist in 2007.