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July 25, 2011
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Giggles and sneers. “Where’re your shoes?”
I smile without meaning to and lightheartedly shrug, “In my backpack. I just felt like taking them off.” Sure, of course walking barefoot seems a little strange—maybe a little too Hippie for this era—but some spring days are just meant to be lived without shoes on.
I often find that when bustling around campus, my mind is too busy freaking out about exams, soccer, or the dress I have to finish making to really look where I’m stepping. Today’s emphasis—and probably tomorrow’s—focuses more on where we are supposed to end up, and less on the stones we have to jump on to get there: my first lead role, flying alone to Spain, or my Geometry final freshman year that I stayed up all night to study for. Shoes only encourage this neglect. Shoes enable us to walk blindly because with our feet in a cage of safety, we don’t have to look where we step—we are protected.
Children run around barefoot all the time despite the frowns of worried parents. I know I stubbed my toe at least ten times as a kid running around suburban streets determined to catch a football—and clearly even after the fifth time I wasn’t afraid of taking the risk of bare feet again. As a seven year old, I swash-buckled with trees and wrote stories that came to me while making fairy houses in the backyard. I didn’t care that trees didn’t fight back, or that my stories didn’t make sense, or even when my fairy houses collapsed. I didn’t worry about failure—I could always try and build that fairy house again another time. That stubbed toe: well, slap a band-aid on it and keep running. Where did all that fearlessness go?
Play it safe, do what you know you can do, just get through the day, and wear shoes. Yes, my mature head tells me to be secure and I’ll have a comfortable future. If I walk only “inside the box” then I won’t have to feel any hurt, any disappointment, and definitely won’t have to feel the sting of a stubbed toe. If I had always lived in a laced up comfort zone I never would have experienced getting cut from the soccer team I tried out for, messing up during a flute concert, or losing my voice as a cabin leader at Outdoor Ed. See though, sometimes we have to take risks, even if the outcome doesn’t always seem worth it. If we never skid through any dirty puddles, we can never know the true taste of victory. Luckily, my heart is a bit more reckless than my head and still believes in writing wild stories and sprinting barefoot.
My campus is lettered with painful gravel and gross dirt, not to mention scorching pavement—something I only caught onto once my sandals were in my backpack. Yet as I gratefully stroll over a patch of lawn, I also start to appreciate just how wonderfully soft the grass is, and when I enter the Main building, I enjoy the cool wooden hallway more than I should for just a plain spring day. A grin smears itself into the corner of my mouth and I realize all these things I feel biting or soothing my feet mean I’m alive. It’s all good.

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