I believe in wearing uncomfortable shoes.
I believe in wearing skinny high heels, the kind that always get jammed in that crack in the sidewalk and make me fall. I believe in wearing hard rubber flip-flops with straps that scrape the tops of my feet, and wedges that make my toes cramp as soon as I take them off.
I believe in wearing knee-high boots that glue themselves to my calves and bunch around my ankles. I believe in wearing shoes that squeeze, rub, pinch, scratch, slide, and rip.
I believe in shoes that force discomfort on me. I believe in shoes that must be broken in, shoes I have to get used to. I believe in wearing uncomfortable shoes every day, until the bottoms mold to my feet and cushion each toe in its own indent.
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I believe in bearing discomfort. ... until I build up calluses that make me immune to those hard rubber flip flop straps, until my balance frees me to walk on any sidewalk in my skinny high heels.
At all of life’s twists and turns, I have the option of choosing between familiarity and the unknown: my old fuzzy slippers, which wrap my feet in warm safety, or a new pair of hard, cold, heavy shoes that must be warmed and conditioned. I fight the allure of familiarity and comfort, and surrender myself to something new and different — even if it’s terrifying and disconcerting.
I strap on my high heels, my boots, my flip-flops. I take the pain. And I learn from it. Wearing my most uncomfortable shoes, I delve into a foreign, difficult task. As I break my shoes in, I taste a new experience.
My fears and reservations nipped at my toes when I took that advanced class, which looked impossible to pass, and when I took the training wheels off my bike for the first time. I endure the discomfort when I stand up for my beliefs; I feel the pinch every time I smile at that girl I never really liked or go ice skating without hanging onto the rail.
To embrace difficulty, to challenge myself, to improve myself, I buckle on my uncomfortable shoes and start walking. I run, jump, and play in those shoes until I have soaked up new knowledge, morals, or skills. I wear them until they have been broken in. I wear them until they cease to be a pair of uncomfortable shoes and become a lesson learned, a habit formed, and yet another pair of soft, fuzzy, reassuring slippers.
I believe in wearing uncomfortable shoes: the shoes that squeeze, rub, pinch, scratch, slide, and rip. I believe in unfamiliar, scary situations. I believe that discomfort is necessary for self-improvement.
Every day, I am forced into another uncomfortable situation. Every day, a new pair of uncomfortable shoes chafes my feet in a different place. Every day, I break in another pair of shoes. Every day, I learn.
This I believe.
Suzan Yener is a State College Area High School student and a National Merit Scholarship finalist. Her essay will air on WPSU on April 3.