I had been very slow to accept the reality that my tattered black gym shoes weren’t cutting it anymore. I had been through a lot with those gym shoes. I had wore them to my workout classes, on long walks to the office, and on an awkward first date with the man who would later become my boyfriend. We had a rich history, those shoes and me.
But as a tiny hole on the side of one of the seams had become larger, and larger, the truth became more and more evident — I needed a new pair of shoes.
I didn’t have a ton of money, but I wanted something nice. I wanted something comfortable. I wanted something cool.
I had spent the summer in Brooklyn, watching cool chic kids wear these white shoes with a black stripe with dark jeans, or sometimes sweats. The aesthetic was cool. The aesthetic was chill, and I loved it.
The truth is, I am the opposite of chill. I am high strung, I talk fast in a high-pitched voice. I am the first to get worked up about something, and the very last to take it easy. I worry about everything, and serenely accept nothing. I am not chill. But maybe I could look chill?
So I ordered a pair of Adidas Superstars on Amazon for just under $60. When they arrived in a branded box, I eagerly ripped them out of the packaging and tried them on. They fit perfectly. They were perfect.
When I wore them the next day to work, I felt empowered. The coolness of brand had exuded into me, and when I took the steps down to the subway to go home, I felt like a man who was walking that path for the very first time (I wasn’t).
Each step I was careful though. Picking white shoes was a nebulous choice, as any scuff or mark would immediately show up and tarnish my new purchase. The cool kids that I had seen wearing the same shoes didn’t have scuffs or marks on their shoes. They were perfect. I wanted my shoes to be perfect. I wanted to be perfect.
I walked down each set of stairs super slowly. I watched how I opened doors, and I tiptoed around obstacles. Had anybody been watching me (nobody was) I without a doubt would have appeared 100% insane.
Even though I was struggling through life like everyone else, I wanted to give the appearance of the “he’s got it together” guy. Even though I was worried and anxious like everyone else, I wanted to be the chill guy. Even though I was broke AF, I wanted to be the financially secure successful guy.
The truth is, I’m none of those things. I’m just a guy.
I’m just a guy who tries to signal his security and confidence with material items. Just a guy who puts way too much focus on what people are wearing, and not enough on what’s in their heart. Just a guy who is going to 100% fuck up his new shoes (and probably his new button down) very, very soon.
But it will be okay. Because we aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect. But that’s okay. We aren’t supposed to be. We should stop pretending to be. We are going to have scuffs and marks during our lives—we are supposed to.
I didn’t need new shoes.
I needed a new mindset.