A walk in my own shoes

I had a vision of my name in lights.

I write often about how I’m going to change the world … or, rather, how I’m going to change mine. So everyone may be yawning and saying “whatever” when they read that first sentence of this entry, but this time, I’ve raised the stakes. If I don’t make a difference right now, I never will. And I will no longer permit myself to dream about it, if I don’t get off my ass this instant and start my own personal revolution.

I was doing a lot of thinking during the brief drive to work (thank you Van Dorn Street for being traffic-free today!). I thought about the cliche of “having shoes to fill.” No, I’m not talking about Carrie in “Sex and the City” with her $400 Manolos. I’m talking about people’s expectations of you versus your own expectations. We think of filling someone’s shoes as being an honor, a privilege, a challenge — for example, carrying on in the name of fallen heroes, or even stepping into a higher position at work when someone has left.

But sometimes, it feels like we are expected to fill smaller, tighter shoes that chafe. Like, when you hear enough negative things about yourself (from the source or from third parties) that you might start to shrink into those shoes. Like if someone has an opinion about you — and you don’t even necessarily have to agree with it — then there is that fleeting moment of paranoia that maybe everybody is thinking that about you. Why are they thinking it? Is that because that’s how you are, or maybe that’s the road you’re heading down? And if you’re heading down that path anyway (or you arrived and didn’t even realize it), maybe you just grow into those shoes and just be as (insert adjective) as people see you?

In my bedroom closet, I must have at least 100 pairs of shoes, and I probably can name 100 different adjectives about myself that I can wear with each pair. So what if I’ve gotten most of them from Parade of Shoes, Payless and Marshall’s (i.e., on discount) — each one, in some way, reflects a little bit of me. Some are loud and flashy, some are funky, some conservative, some barely noticeable, some brand-spanking and never worn, some worn about a dozen more times than they should have been. Some are too loose, some too tight and some fit beautifully and make me feel great when I have them on.

Some days, I choose my shoes. Other days, I’m running late and grab whatever’s nearby. One could say that, each day, I make a conscious or maybe even subconscious decision about the shoes I plan to fill for the day. Metaphorically, I don’t give a shit about anybody’s opinion but mine. And that’s an opinion I really need to carry over into my personal life and work life.

Our on-site mental health professional was talking to me today about my horrific letters to the editor of late. He asked what the publisher does to ensure that I am personally OK after reading the onslaught of insults. I laughed and said nothing. He said he’s concerned about my well-being, that a person can only hear so much crap about themselves (particularly when it’s fabricated in someone else’s mind) before it takes a toll on their mental well-being.

You know, this was the first time anybody ever asked me what I felt — I always read the letters, call the people assholes, edit the letters and run them in the magazine. Same with other kinds of criticism I get — I process it and take what I want out of it. And I likened the process to going to a psychic. I said that the psychic tells you all kinds of things, and it’s up to you to decide what you really want to take out of the reading, and you have to just not let yourself be bothered by the rest. Same with the letters — I find the point or the news in each one, and I just look past the personal slights that are made in someone else’s anger. He told me I have an impressively thick skin, and that if I ever want to process my thoughts with a professional, his door is always open.

I guess I’m just feeling really good today. It’s nice to be validated. The negativity surrounding me has been sitting on my shoulders, and no matter how hard I shake it off, it clings harder to me. And I don’t want to become negative just because it’s always there, tempting me to wallow in its power. And like the quote I posted yesterday, confidence comes with action, not before action. Same thing with hope and happiness — waiting for it to happen isn’t going to make it come any sooner — we’ve just gotta hang in there and make our own. And it’s my time to do just that.

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