Sunday, September 26, 2010

Letting Go (Or: When Throwing Out a Pair of Shoes Isn't Really Only Just About Throwing Out a Pair of Shoes)

[RIP, faithful friend]

I did something Sunday morning of great significance and courage and defiance. I threw an old, yet favorite pair of shoes into the trash.

And right now you’re thinking: Old shoes in the trash? Big effing deal! So what?

Let me explain… It’s true that I tend to hold onto things for too long – feelings, thoughts, possessions, what have you. I just have a hard time letting go. I get ridiculous amounts of comfort from objects that have long since served their purpose. I own socks and pants and underwear with holes in them, but dammit they’re comfortable and make me feel happy. So sue me.

Right now, things are a little rough for me so I look for any small measure of comfort any place I can get it. Sometimes that comfort comes in the form of, say, a comfortable pair of jeans with a bunch of holes, or a pair of underwear in which the elastic has stretched out beyond purpose, or a Culture Club song from 1985 (don't judge, bitches). I don’t care – it gives me a little comfort and helps get me through the day. I’m simple like dat.

This is a problem, I know, because this clinging to the old and familiar also bleeds into every other area of my life, particularly emotions and feelings. When things are bad, I start to daydream about simpler times when things were good - it's only natural. I get sentimental over memories and spend too much time looking back when I need to be moving forward.

Anyway, six years ago I brought a pair of green low-top converse shoes (pictured above) as part of a Halloween costume. They soon became a favorite, and they’ve seen a lot of action. They’ve been a faithful companion to me for the last few years. We've had some good times together.

Last week I was wearing them at the library and I friend, sniffing something suspicious in the air, asked me “Is that smell coming from your shoes?” And the answer was: Yes, yes they are. So I put them away for a few days, knowing that a few days of airing out would freshen them up. (Because better to de-smell a pair of nasty-ass shoes then to simply replace them, right?)

Then on Saturday during my Portland visit, I was walking in the rain and realized that the holes at the bottom of the shoes were sucking up the water, drenching the bottom of my feet. When I mentioned to my friend Shauna that my feet were completely soaked because of this, she asked me a series of completely logical questions, like: “How old are those things, anyway?” and “Why do you still wear those? and “Why don’t we just replace them with a new pair?” I tried to justify the reasons why I held on to them, but as the reasons came out of my mouth (“Because they’re comfortable.” and “They fit my feet really well.” and “Because I love them.”) I realized how ridiculous it all is. What, are these the only pair of green low-top converse available? Can I not afford the $30 it would cost to replace them?

They’re familiar. They’ve been a part of my life for the last 6 years. I don’t want to part with them because I crave the familiar. Familiar is comforting. Familiar is not scary and doesn’t make me anxious. Is that so wrong? Nevermind that familiar sometimes smells badly and makes my feet wet.

So anyway, the next morning as I was packing my back to head back to DC I put the shoes (still a little wet from the afternoon before) into my bag. Then I thought about it: It’s time to start letting go. So I took them back out of my bag and threw them into the trash and walked away. For a few moments, I thought about turning around and rescuing them back out of the garbage. But no, it is time to move on.

Things change. Life, circumstances and people do, too. They move forward, or sideways. Time marches on and if you don’t try to keep up, no matter how scary it seems, you’ll get left behind. And here I am, more often than not, clinging to the past like a lifejacket; a buoy in the sea. This is not a good place to be. I need to spend more time looking forward than hanging on to the past.

So you see on the surface the act of me throwing out a pair of old, smelly, hole-y and just plain nasty shoes is, well, nothing more than throwing out a pair of old, smelly, hole-y and just plain nasty shoes. But really, it is a symbolic act of changing my behavior. Of adjusting my attitude and outlook on life. It is an act of defiance; an act of bravery.

Goodbye shoes. You’ve lived a good life. But if I’m really going to start letting go of the past, it has to start somewhere and it might as well be with you. RIP, buddy.


  1. This was exactly what I needed to read right now.

  2. I completely understand. Letting go of anything comfortable that has been a part of your life is hard. Big things and little things. I still have the first pair of running shoes I got when I started running 12 years ago. I never wear them but I can't throw them away. This applies to something big in my life right now too and it's just so hard to let go of something that is comfortable.