When I was a little kid I owned four pairs of shoes. The first pair was the sneakers that I wore all day every day. I would wear them to school where I would play in the playground (assuming of course that I wasn’t in trouble for failing to follow some arbitrary rule that I didn’t create). My sneakers were not just for walking. They were also excellent brakes when I rode my bicycle, rain boots when I splashed in puddles, hiking boots when I went to the woods that I was most definitely not supposed to play in, and so on. Their many uses were endless. My second pair of childhood shoes was the worn out version of the first pair, kept in case I needed to “get dirty.”
My third pair of shoes was invariably some random child dress shoe whose wearing involved an event that required me to sit still and be quiet. As sitting still and being quiet were the two most impossible tasks for my childhood self to tackle, I knew that if I was wearing dress shoes I would be miserable and uncomfortable. My fourth pair of shoes was the cleats that I wore when I played soccer. Given that I enjoyed playing soccer only marginally more than I enjoyed sitting still and being quiet, I hardly enjoyed wearing cleats.
Recently, I have started going to the gym to exercise. While I suppose that I should be gleaning some great insight about the importance of fitness and health to one’s mood, the biggest thing I have learned whilst at the gym is that Fox News is just as annoying without any sound as it is with sound. As I generally avoid watching Fox News with or without sound, I had never considered the over/under of how annoying Fox News is while muted versus with the sound on. It turns out that reading the crazy is just as frightening as listening to it. The only bonus of muted Fox News is that occasionally the closed captioning doesn’t exactly match what is spoken. For instance yesterday there was a big hue and cry about whether President Obama committed “tree son” because of his declaration that he supported gay marriage. I’m not sure what “tree son” is exactly, but I suspect the folks that oppose gay marriage are against it (which makes me for it, though again I don’t know what it is and indeed it may be a wholly bad idea). I suspect that they were debating the merits of whether the President committed treason, while just as asinine as “tree son,” it is a smidge more congruent with their perverse view of the world. Again, there was no sound for me to compare to the closed captioning, so I’m speculating here.
But I digress. As I have started going to the gym, I discovered that I did not own a pair of shoes appropriate for working out in. This surprised me because as I have grown older my collection of shoes has expanded geometrically. Off the top of my head, my shoe count includes the following: two pairs of fetish boots, cowboy boots, work boots, rubber boots, leather casual/going out shoes, two pairs of casual work shoes, five pairs of Converse in various colors, two pairs of dress shoes, a wingtips, swimming shoes, shower shoes, pool shoes, and probably two or three other pairs of shoes designated for some activity that I’ve never actively engaged in.
How on earth did I go from really only needing one pair of shoes to having so many? While I am sure that some of that change can be attributed to growing up. In some ways I still feel the dread I felt as a child while wearing dress shoes because wearing dress shoes often involves activities I would rather avoid like court appearances, job interviews, or funerals. Still I have grown and recognize their importance and the fact that these events require a slightly different pair of shoes than the shoes I might wear while puttering around the house or attending a leather conference.
Some of the shoes I own simply puzzle me. Like my swimming shoes. I don’t go snorkeling or scuba diving, so I don’t own any fins. As nearly as I can tell, swimming doesn’t actually require wearing any shoes. Yet somehow I have come into possession of shoes that I would only wear while trying to avoid the rocks and beer can detritus that one finds at the lake. I also own shower shoes that I wear to the pool. Again, you don’t need shoes to swim yet I own two pairs dedicated to that activity – an activity that I rarely engage in.
I also own a pair of rubber boots that I can wear if I have to walk in the mud. I walk in the mud even less often than I go swimming, so their utility is minimal and my ownership of them slightly more mystifying.
Thinking about all of my various shoes, I realized that taken together they tell a story of about me. Or at least they tell a big part of it. Together my shoes represent all of the things that I do and all of the things that I am. My life, like my shoe collection, is composed of various parts that serve different functions. My shoes tell my story and I realized that if you wanted to know who I am you wouldn’t need to walk a mile in my shoes, you’d need to walk several miles in all of them.