Every friendship must first begin with an introduction, so allow me to introduce “The Girl Behind The Daily Shoe.” I wear an average shoe (size 7) but I don’t suppose I’m necessarily average. I’m a bit quirky (ok, I’m really quirky) with a deep love of and appreciation for art, music, Spain, running, writing and of course, shoes. The daughter of a Southern Baptist Preacher and an elementary school teacher, my childhood played out in a sprawling back yard surrounded by corn and tobacco fields in Western Kentucky. Life was simple and good, filled with a lot of love and, naturally, Southern Comfort. While some might say that “all good things must come to an end” I will argue that “all good things eventually must change.” And so they did for me. While I enjoyed the country and the simplicity of the town where I spent my adolescence, my parents always knew I could never stay. I spent my college years plotting my escape. I needed a city. Not the largest city, but a city.
One sunny, autumn afternoon, I stood barefoot, and utterly bewildered, in the middle of an empty apartment in the heart of Louisville—the city I’d decided to make my new home. This apartment was a tremendous upgrade from my previous living arrangement, which consisted of a twin-sized air mattress at the foot of a friend’s bed and a handful of clothes and shoes shoved into one end of her closet. I had been sharing that tight space with my gracious friend while I waited to see if the career opportunity I was pursuing would become available to me. It did. And that is how I came to find myself, only a few months later, staring around at my new place and feeling a little overwhelmed by my circumstances: I was officially on my own; I was 250 miles from my family and the people I love the most; I was in a relationship that was holding us both back and hurting us both a little more every day; and I was alone and didn’t even own a fork to eat a Lean-Cuisine with, let alone a microwave with which to cook one. In light of this harsh reality, I did the only thing a girl such a predicament can do: I put on my shoes, grabbed my purse and my keys and went shopping.
Five different colors of paint, a new couch, borrowed television, various decorations and a cat later—I had established my “home.” But, deep down I knew there was a lot more work to be done.
Usually, at least once in a girl’s life, she’ll stumble across the most perfect shoe. The moment she sees it—from the color to the shape to the fit—she knows—this is “her shoe.” An outward expression of her perspectives, her style, her hopes and dreams, she wears this shoe proudly. And, just as the perfect shoe should, it lifts her up and helps her move ahead in the direction of her hopes and dreams for the future.
That fall, my journey to find “my shoe” was only beginning. In fact, I couldn’t decide where to even put my actual shoes for the longest time. The poor things spent close to a year and a half in chaos, crammed in my tiny closet, which, in a real sense, seems parallel to my life at the time. Those first two years were complete turmoil. I spent them searching for some steady ground on which to stand and trying on a lot of different pairs of “shoes” to see which ones I might fill: charity work, politics, boyfriends, etc.
I felt like a real-life Cinderella…except, there was no prince at my door bearing my missing shoe and in doing so, revealing my purpose and destiny. And there was no fancy ball at a palace, either. No, I had to scream and claw and fight for my “shoe” with every ounce of energy I could muster in what sometimes felt like a muggy swamp. It was a little like a treasure hunt where you search under every rock and in every cranny for your prize—led only to the next place by subtle hints and clues.
It took time. But eventually, “my shoe” began to take shape before my eyes. Let’s just say that the “Girl Behind the Daily Shoe” in 2010 doesn’t even recognize the “Girl Behind the Daily Shoe” from 2007. I suspect this is the natural progression of life: constantly moving, ever evolving, always molding us into—I believe—the people we were born to be.
“Sometimes it’s just one foot in front of the other. Throw your feet over the side of the bed. Strap on your pretty shoes and move in the direction of the woman you’ve always wanted to become.”–Angela Thomas, When Wallflowers Dance
Eventually, I found the rightful place for my shoes. Out of that dark, dank closet they came into the light of day. So, every morning when I crawl out of bed and round the corner into the hallway, they greet me: Dozens of pairs of pretty shoes lined in perfect rows on shelves that stretch along the entire wall. They are, in a very real sense, an expression of my life: the physical foundation on which I stand. A shoe will never replace my spiritual foundation, my family who loved and supported me through thick and thin, or my friends who listen and encourage me to pursue my calling in life. Rather, shoes are a small, physical reminder of these things. And my shoes—with their tall, slender heels and pointed toes—have supported and held me up through a lot over the years: A reminder of where I have been. A symbol of where I am going.