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January 3, 2012
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To me that is one of the ugliest, nastiest, most demoralizing words there is. It is a word used to describe someone who isn’t brave enough to be himself. defines it as “a person who conforms, especially unquestioningly, to the unusual practices or standards of a group or society.”

At auctions, do people pay millions for a cheap imitation of a long-dead artist’s work? Do people settle for tofu when they really crave steak? Do fans pay for the copy of their idol’s signature when they want the real thing?

When you asked about Gotham City will someone go on and on about Robin? No, they’ll talk about Batman whose shadow Robin is trapped in.

Joan Brannon, a celebrated movie director, producer, and writer, once said, “He who walks in another’s footprints leaves no tracks.”

I remember as a child following my parents to the beach, I would stretch and jump and leap my way into their footprints in the sand, so my little feet wouldn’t step on sharp shells or barbs in the dunes. I would leave invisible tracks, my footprints overshadowed by the larger ones of my father.

When walking in the little dusting of snow that Georgia gets every once and a while, I would make my footsteps match the deep impressions of whoever I was following so my boots wouldn’t get caked with icy snow and soak my toes. My father always went first, checking to see if the sidewalk was too slippery for us to follow.

However, life isn’t about blending into the shadows of someone else's footprints.

All my life I’ve danced to a different beat. I wouldn’t call myself a leader and definitely not a follower. I meander around the edges of accepted society, finding my own way.

As I’ve aged and matured, I’ve learned that life isn’t about avoiding barbs and sharp shells or keeping my boots clean and my toes warm. Life isn’t about figuring out how not to slip.

Life is about stepping on barbs and shells and learning that not everything will be good for me and not everyone will want what’s best for me. Hurt and pain are included in life’s box set. Barbs and shells will teach me that it’s okay to cry sometimes. Barbs and shells will teach me that sometimes I just need to stop a minute and think about what I’m doing and what, or who, I may be stepping on.

Life is about getting my boots dirty and figuring out that even when life is trying to drag me down with the heaviness of that icy snow, I need to stop long enough to get rid of that heaviness that’s weighing me down.

My toes will get cold sometimes and my feet will hurt from all the walking, but life goes on. I may slip and fall sometimes, but I’ve got to pick myself up and dust myself off. Life isn’t waiting for me to be good and ready.

When one conforms, they miss out on all the experiences, however uncomfortable or painful they may be. People learn from their own failures much quicker than the failures of others.

I’ve stepped out of the footprints and made my own. When I’m old and gray, I don’t want to look back on a life of missed opportunities and playing it safe. I want to look back one day and laugh about my mistakes, smile at my short-comings, shake my head at my blue hair phase and be blind to the pain because of all the joy in my life.

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