Do I own a pair of shoes that evoke memories, or that I have a deep association with, and why?
As I flip through a mental rolodex of pairs of shoes from throughout my life, short snippets of memory and emotion flash quickly past my mind’s eye; granting me just a moment with each before the next rushes in and reframes my possible answer to this question entirely.
I always knew I’d have to submit a story of my own. A simple task which can either stay simple or contain within it a piece of my memory and identity. Possibly—I tell myself—it could even contain within it a glimpse at the truths which I hold so tight and close that sometimes even I can go for weeks or months without peeking under the hood to check in on them.
This contrasting simplicity and depth is mirrored in the psychology of shoes themselves—which is, of course, what the Van Gogh painting which inspired this project is best known for.
So perhaps I can retrofit this question, looking first at my memory and identity and then backing into the pair of shoes which fit best. I’ll attempt to do so in three parts.
First off, I’m quirky. A personality feature which ran rampantly unchecked throughout my childhood then went fully into hiding throughout my grade school years, when remaining silent was preferable to being labeled a weirdo. Thanks to a solid community of friends, this feature comfortably floated it’s way back into the forefront of my identity in my early 20’s and has been a secret pride of mine ever since.
Secondly, I’m persuasive. A trait that goes hand-in-hand with the rollercoaster of frustration and joy that is the ability to talk myself into—or out of—just about anything. And why a solid debate over some obscure philosophical question or inconceivable concept is truly the quickest way to my heart. Fortunately, I was raised with an abundance of love and this attribute is, in turn, never used without everyone’s best interest in mind … though it did take a “safety-third” stance during my study abroad months in Rome.
Lastly, and most obviously, I’m hopelessly optimistic. After reading through Malcolm Gladwell's research on the concept of “Imminent Orphans,” I’ve self-diagnosed this attribute to be a result of my fathers death which occurred when I was six. Gladwell’s research outlines how the psychology of experiencing the loss of a parent at an early age can, in some instances, manifest itself in the form of disproportionate amounts of courage and a high tolerance for risk later in life. Though I certainly don’t consider myself to be brave, I call it optimistic.
Working back as I promised, it seems as though the shoes which fit best are the ones that came to mind first after all: my black Jeffry Campbell Lolita-style platform heels.
When I purchased them, I was living in Asheville, North Carolina, having moved to the mountains post-graduation to start off fresh and on my own. Truly, I knew no one. After months of attempts at building a close community (to varying degrees of success) I found myself one night feeling especially lonely and reaching for my phone to text a few close friends from college, saying, “Meet me in Chicago for Halloween, let’s have an adventure.”
Thus the shoes were purchased in preparation for the trip to Chicago, and selected as a perfect Pairing to my Daft Punk costume which included the helmet I was crafting late at night out of art board, cheap plastic, a used baseball helmet, a PBR can cut in half, spray paint, and Bondo … so much Bondo.
Looking back, this was a time in my life of uncomfortably independent yet thrilling growth and introspection. Difficult, but exciting. Reverberating with indecision and possibility.
When Halloween weekend arrived, the trip to Chicago went over flawlessly. My Daft Punk helmet and Lolita platform shoes acting as both the armor and masquerade for the new life and direction I was trying on at the time. I arrived on Thursday and by Saturday night my friends and I were forming plans to move to the city together. By January we’d signed a lease in Lakeview, and by February I had fully uprooted my life and started something completely new.
The Lolita heels—by nature of their style, price point, and the physics required to balance in them—were a calculated risk … much like my move to Chicago. And I now find myself at another crossroads, having graduated from SVA with a masters degree and my spirit again reverberating with the unique thrill of adjacent possibilities.
What path do I want to take in my new life in New York City, and what kind of shoes might be required to walk it? I don’t yet know the answer to this question. But whatever shoes they are, I aspire for three things to remain constant:
They’ll allow for quirkiness and lead me to community.
When the right style comes into view, it’ll be me who calculates the risk and ultimately persuades myself into making the leap.
And whatever the physics required to balance their sole, the first step forward will be taken with optimism. Always optimism.