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The shoes of our lives

Marc Anthony Rosa | Monday, February 27, 2012

We get up on our feet, look ahead in front of us and take a giant leap forward in our lives. Slip on shoes, tie the laces, walk forward. It’s such a simple daily ritual that we don’t even think about it, but the ways in which we move in the world tell a compelling story of how we grow as people.

And grow I did. When my feet were small and bare, you once watched me sprint from room to room and trip and fall every few feet. What seems like seconds later, you watched as my feet kicked in excitement as you laced on my first pair of Power Ranger school shoes. Just a few moments later, you helped buckle my first pair of inline skates, knowing full well that I would come back with scrapes and bruises everywhere.

But let’s not kid ourselves here. The son that you recognize today throws on non-matching socks, shoves his feet into winter boots and moves into a full-on sprint through the quad to get to class on time. And yet, other days, you’ll find me stepping barefoot over empty beer cans, road signs that definitely weren’t stolen and other things that aren’t exactly scholarly.

The journey of our lives has taken all of us to so many different places. But this journey is mixed with just as many somber realities as it is with happy memoirs, a balance of life that you know all too well. If you look closely, the dress shoes in my closet are faintly marked with tears, having borne the weight of a boy who inexplicably found himself walking to a friend’s funeral just a year ago. Those same dress shoes are scuffed up in frustration and doubt, abraded by truths of life that a son discovers when taking giant leaps and landing on rejection.

The journey of our lives leads us through both dark ditches and lighted highways, where the end result is a well-worn yet well-prepared set of feet. And good, bad or indifferent, these feet are growing much bigger, moving much faster and strolling much farther away than for what you’re ready. In just a few months, my shoes will be laced by a black graduation gown and will take slow, confident strides towards a podium right before leaping into the air. What seem to be only minutes later, all of the shoes that I own will be thrown into cheap cardboard boxes with the words “New home” etched on it, adorned with a shipping address unfamiliar.

You’ll soon find me strolling around in a strange new city not known for its safe neighborhoods, walking with coworkers whose names you’ll never quite remember. And you’ll meet a pair of Stilettos that seem to match perfectly with my shoes, with one of the heels gracefully lifted up in the air during a kiss in true Hollywood fashion. The pitter-patter of my Power Ranger shoes running at you seems but a distant memory, a moment in time that is all-too-quickly replaced by a stroll that is confident, collected and accompanied.

The truth of the matter is that everything is about to be very different for all of us. These are the realities of life, where the words “graduation,” “career” and “dating” are concepts that suddenly have real weight to them. There will be moments when you won’t be able to be there in ways you once were, when most of life’s problems were solved with a mother’s touch, a soothing voice and a giant hug.

But no matter how different post-graduation life may be, there is one reality that will always stay the same: How we choose to handle life is very much like how we handle our shoes. We can choose to run away in times of trepidation, trip on ourselves in the process and move forward with clumsy, limited strides. Or, we can lace up those shoes, tie them tightly and walk forward with confidence. Even though we may still trip and fall anyway, it isn’t the shoes themselves that define the journey; it’s the other pairs of shoes that walk alongside us, pick us up and make the journey something worth treading.

Luckily for me, there has always been a pair of shoes walking next to me the entire time. No matter how many times I’ve fallen, there has always been one person who was right there to pick me up and dust me off. And no matter how difficult the upcoming path will be, there will always be one person to whom I’ll look for help. Even though our individual paths will soon diverge faster than you wish, with one of them far more exciting than the other, I will forever look to my side and feel solace that your pair will be right next to mine.

Each day, we get up on our feet, look ahead in front of us and take a giant leap forward in our lives.

And leap I will.

Thank you for always being there for me. I couldn’t have made it this far without you.

Marc Anthony Rosa is a senior management entrepreneurship major. He can be reached at mrosa@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.