Every year, we are given a brand new, shiny pair of shoes for Christmas. We are so excited to try them on, but decide to wait until the new year. Every day for nearly a whole week we carefully lift them out of the box and spend time staring at them, envisioning ourselves in them and thinking about what everyone will say. This will be the best year, we believe that they will enable us to jump further and run for longer, that we will be faster and more powerful, all because of these new shoes. On January the first, we eventually try them on. They’re a little to big. To much space at the toes, and even when we pull the laces as tight as we can, they feel too loose, and trip us up when we try to run.
For a few days we persevere with the new shoes.
We convince ourselves that they fit, that we’ll grow into them.
But we have fully grown, adult sized feet.
Deep down we know these shoes will never fit.
We feel stupid and angry. All we wanted to do was show off, to feel good in the new and shiny shoes.
We try to avoid leaving the house. What’s the point in going out if you’re in the same old shoes you wore last year? Nothing exciting ever happened in those shoes. They’re old and run down. Eventually, we must venture outside, so we lace up the new shoes, determined to try one last time to make them fit. Barely are we out of the front door when we trip up over a chipped paving stone and fall flat on our face. Tearing the shoes off our feet, our eyes brimming with an unstoppable ocean of tears we slam the door behind us and sink to the floor. We failed. We had this beautiful intention of wearing our brand-new shoes and letting them walk the walk for us, but we failed.
Reluctantly we go to our cupboard and pull out our tatty, hand-me-down trainers, the ones the new pair were supposed to replace. We pull them onto our feet, the familiar snug fit hugs our arches and heels, like they were made for us. They feel secure as if they were welcoming our feet home. We do up the laces in silence and then just stare at them.
As we walk down the road we feel our shoes propelling us forward. They have walked these streets before. They know where we are going. Walking with purpose, we feel inspired to keep walking and see where we end up. With each step, we are reminded of how much we achieved last year in these shoes. How many miles we ran and trees we climbed. We don’t need the new shiny shoes at all.
Hello to the same old pair of shoes, but a new spring to the step of the feet inside them. A new direction. A new purpose. Our old shoes are tired and worn, holes in the heel and sellotape around the toes. The laces have been replaced at least twice and don’t match. But with every puddle they stamp in, every hill they climb, every quick dash to jump on the train just in time, they remain optimistic about the safe return home.
We have lost our old shoes before. Yearning for more adventure than we could provide, they untangled themselves from our back-pack strap and fell to the fate of the streets, months later turning up in the local thrift store.
Our old shoes are molded to the shape of our feet. After years of wearing them, we are used to the thin soles, to the feel of every stone and splinter we tred on. Used to the slight pinch on our left baby toe. We complain about it all the time, but miss it when we find ourselves barefoot. There was a whole month when we wore these shoes every day. To dance clubs, job interviews and beach walks. Our old shoes were more a part of us than anything else, and people knew us by our shoes. They carried us through every new city, heartbreak and adventure.
Our shoes are heavy. We recognize the weight of them in our bag, we feel lighter without them – too light, as if the wind could just sweep us off our feet. They take our weight through every terrain. In them we have tripped and stumbled, we have succumbed to many scrapped knees and bleeding knuckles. But with every embarrassing fall, they pick us up and propel us forward with even more purpose and passion than before.
It may be a new year, but our old shoes still fit us better. It’s not the shoes that have to change, but the feet inside them. Our old shoes are the same. But we are different.