This I Believe

Kevin - Webster, New York
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

As an energetic little boy who put innumerable grass stains on his jeans, spilled hundreds of milk glasses, and even carved his name into his father’s gray pickup truck with a small stone, I believed in being improper. I liked to eat my soggy cereal with my hands (always digging for the red balloons in my Lucky Charms), and play “science” in the bathroom, filling various cups and bowls with different soap-and-food coloring concoctions.

I hated receiving clothes for my birthday. What was the point of them? I wanted a red Power Wheels Jeep, or the Grape Escape game that Santa had forgotten last winter. And yet, every birthday and every Christmas would be slightly spoiled by the ominous Kaufmann’s or Bon-Ton box hidden under the silver-starred wrapping paper.

But somewhere along the line, my distaste for clothing vanished and I began to develop my own style. I got over my nonexistent Power Wheels and the destructive 6-year-old, dinosaur-loving Kevin morphed into a different kid who liked choosing his own outfits. By fifth grade, my mother had almost no say in what I did and did not wear—despite the unending battle of shorts versus pants (“It’s only 50 degrees outside, Kevin! You’ll freeze!”).

That fall, I had bought new shoes—awesome shoes—for the coming school year. Their vibrant orange color, fluorescent green stripes and glow in the dark laces fascinated me. I would slip them on and watch my feet transform into towering billboards that advertised my presence with every step I took. And I wanted nothing more than to tell the world about my extraordinary new shoes. So I wore them to school, making sure that their broadcast resounded throughout every hallway.

Unfortunately, the whole world didn’t think the same way as I did. After only a few short hours at school, my great shoes and me had been demoted to the “nobody” who actually wears Old Navy and a “stupid, ugly pair of shoes.”

The rest of the day, I refused to leave my seat, knowing that if I got up my classmates would see my shoes. Even when my nose began to run from my stifled tears, I would not dare the walk across the room to the tissue box. The first day I wore my cool new shoes was also the last day I would ever put such an awful and unsightly disgrace upon my feet.

It took me a few years, and a few more of these ordeals, before I realized that my shoes were probably the best thing that ever happened to me. They taught me the lesson that everyone has their own personality, and that being ashamed of it is simply not acceptable.

Now that I’m a junior in high school, I’ve come to the realization that the playground ridicule we all suffer is not worth the damage it does. On the other hand, I’ve also noticed that many people crumble beneath society’s scorn. I believe that too many people abandon their ugly shoes in exchange for a quiet ride in the waves of society, where rejection is lost in the monotony of everyday fads.

I believe that everyone should have their own pair of ugly shoes to rescue them from drowning in the Ocean of the Ordinary. My shoes were the lifejacket that protected me from fading into the colorless currents of humanity. And they were a very stylish lifejacket at that.