Just sent off my last Dickinsonian column for the year – yet another spur-of-the-moment creation, for better or worse, and this time on the more verbose side (shocking, I know)…
Confession: I hate shoes. I know that all women are supposed to love them and waste far too much time, money, and space on them, but if it were socially acceptable to go barefoot, I would. Shoe shopping is not a draw to me, it is a horror. Regardless, the recent arrival of a new pair of flats was both necessary and welcomed. The trick about new shoes: breaking them in.
Ok, ok, please forgive the fact that this, my last column for the year, is inspired by shoes. I’m generally not so superficial. So, recognizing that, I’d be much obliged if you could keep this in mind and see the larger picture here. Besides, if I have such strong feelings in opposition to the purchasing of shoes, why would I waste my time and yours in talking about them? Good question, and one I debated over myself, to be honest. But here’s what I came up with:
Truth be told, this is the third pair of flats that will suffer under my possession. Now, I only say “suffer” because they’re worn to a pulp… if it were possible for shoes to be worn to a pulp, that is. They weathered trudging up the unshoveled sidewalks of DC under the “snowpocalypse” of 2010; they weathered the Indian festival of Holi, one of the greatest celebrations known to man (result: the shoes became as dowsed in colored powders as I was); they even weathered two months in Ghana during the rainy season and the alternately water-logged or dusty streets of Accra. In short, they saw quite a bit of life with me, and they show it.
Their brethren pair that recently arrived in Carlisle, yet unaware of its similar fate, is destined for a summer in Denmark. There, they’ll join me in biking from my apartment, down Helsingørsgade, past Frederiksborg Slot and its early 17th century royal castle, and in to the center of Hillerød, where I’ll be interning for two months. They’ll also join me on jaunts to nearby Copenhagen and mini trips into southern Sweden, Germany, and the Czech Republic. That’s a lot to handle for a pair of flats, and they have no idea what they’re in for. At the same time, though, neither do I.
Before I pack these ill-fated shoes for a summer in Europe, breaking them in is a necessary evil; even just the test run to the Quarry was a painful experience, the flats annoyed at being put to work and taking it out on the back of my heel. As I strapped a Band-Aid across the injured party, though, I reminded myself that once broken in, they’ll do very well on my jaunts and journeys, and I’ll be sad to replace them in the future as, ultimately, I must. Funny, isn’t it: I’d say the same about the experiences.
When I stepped off the plane last May, I was greeted by a wall of hot, humid Ghanaian air, a rickety conveyor belt I could only pray would yield my bag intact, and a large concrete wall covered in the word “Akwaaba!” – Welcome! There were people everywhere, balancing impossible loads atop their heads or selling unrecognizable food along the side of the road, day and night. English was an official language, but it wasn’t generally the language of choice. And there I was, with eight weeks ahead of me.
Adjusting is never easy, this we know. Really, though, it shouldn’t be. New experiences and adventures truly ought to require a Band-Aid or two, if you ask me; it’s the best way to learn and appreciate. Those flats didn’t know what hit them when they stepped onto the pot-holed streets of Accra, but by the end of the summer, they were naturals. They bore the mark of shoes that had seen a bit of the world – more worn, perhaps, plenty scuffed along the way, but they’d reached that peak stage in the life of shoes: instead of an awkward addition, it was like they’d become a part of me, this extra protective appendage shielding the soles of my feet. We were in it together… Does that sound silly? Most likely. A bit of “silly” is advisable from time to time, though, especially when accompanied by logic and reason.
As I look forward to powering through the end-of-semester insanity and boarding a plane to Copenhagen (via Reykjavik, which I’m oddly excited about), I know myself well enough to anticipate the necessity of Band-Aids. It’s a jungle out there, and the vast majority of new experiences are accompanied by some initial discomfort and insecurity, some bumps and bruises along the way. In the end, though, it’s all part of the adventure, and it’s something I wouldn’t miss for the world.