What Barefoot Means

I have always hated shoes.

Shoes are uncomfortable, unflattering and annoying.  I don’t know where this hatred began.  I think I’ve always had it, the same way some people hate spinach or working out.  (By the way, I have mixed feelings on both of those things.)

Yet, in most of my life, shoes were required.  For school, for work, for activities, for going places.  “No shoes, no shirt” signs would taunt me with their restriction of my feet into confinement.  Sandals and flip flops are slightly more tolerable, and I will wear these over any kind of closed shoe as occasion and propriety permits (I hate to admit I adhere to a word like that, but it’s true).  I’m lucky enough to work in a very laid-back office where these casual footwear options are allowed most of the time.  But the moment I arrive home from anywhere, typically the first thing that happens to denote change of scene is that I kick off my shoes.  Sometimes even before I put down my purse.

But in the summers of my childhood, visiting my father in Colorado, I was a little freer, and I could do as I liked.  So I went barefoot outdoors, most of the time.

It didn’t bother me that the terrain in Colorado is often a little rough.  I would not discriminate between grass, pavement, dirt paths or gravel trails.  I just wanted to be barefoot.  I would even walk barefoot in the river, fed by mountain runoff which starting out freezing until your feet and calves (and sometimes up to your waist) gradually became what my father described as “acclimated to the water”, but what I continually (and stubbornly) referred to as “temperature numb”.  Because, indeed, you weren’t numb to other things, which was rather important as stepping on a sharp or slippery rock and being able to immediately tell the difference was invaluable in navigating our path upstream.  (Of course we would wear shoes when traveling upstream for awhile, but I would always start off getting used to the water by walking around barefoot.)

Through all this traversing about with nothing between my skin and the ground, I gathered many injuries, as you may have already expected.  In fact, I didn’t consider it a real journey into the wilderness unless I returned with bruises, scrapes or cuts.  Perhaps this is perverse, but it always made me feel rather proud.  I had made it!  I had beaten the odds that nature had thrown at me and conquered all!  They were like badges of honor, trophies of the difficulties of my trek.

Another thing that I noticed as those treasured summers went along was that my feet toughened up considerably.  By the middle of the summer, they were like old leather, layered over with calluses and rough edges that would scratch me if they happened to brush up against the much more tender calves.  I didn’t notice it as much anymore when I would walk along a gravel path.  My feet could take it – they had gone through the challenges and they no longer acknowledged any discomfort from the travel.  (As a side note, enjoying the relative toughness of my feet and how they allowed me the freedom to go places that I wouldn’t have otherwise risked may be an underlying reason why, to this day, I don’t really like getting pedicures.)

I tell you all this because I want you to be able to understand what “Barefoot and Finding My Way” means to me, and why I chose it for my tagline.  Upon embarking on this journey of sharing my writing with friends, family, and complete strangers alike, I realized a few things.

This is going to hurt.

This is going to make me stronger.

One day, I will look at my scars and the growth that has come from them and be proud.

And then I will be able to travel the world of writing in a whole new way, risking things that would previously have seemed impossible to me.  I don’t know what they’ll be yet, but they’re out there waiting.

And that’s why I’m here.

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