At the end of my 30 year teaching career, I often dreamed of shoes. In these dreams, there were usually piles of shoes in some obscure place, old ruins in a post-apocalyptic world, or elegant mansions with hidden staircases and multi-doored corridors. There were random assortments of other people’s shoes, a great menagerie of shoes – which I would eventually sort, steal, borrow, or wear. Sometimes I wore only one shoe and the other foot went bare; sometimes I had a different shoe on each foot. There were complex situations with people involved and obstacles to overcome; therefore, the proper shoes were an absolute necessity. I felt anxious about taking them, or trying them at all. Occasionally, I had to be stealthy and decisive, swiftly choosing before it was too late. The shoes were just sitting there unused. It was clear that I had to do what I had to do.
Moccasins, stilettos, and high tops continued to visit my dreams for months. One day, I shared my dream with a friend, and I realized that the shoes held a divine message. It was time to walk around in someone else’s shoes. It was time to grow. It was time to strike out from the cozy life I had been living in the roles I had known for a very long time. Raising my sons and teaching high school English was coming to a close. My youngest child was near high school graduation. My career, while forever interesting, held little in the way of expanding my experience of the world. Tic Tock. I wasn’t getting any younger. I was weary of the rigidity and small-mindedness of this old role. I had simply become too wild for the conformity of the public schools. I was tired of trying to fit in. I never felt that I really did fit in, and my own shoes were worn through.
It was not a great stretch to imagine wearing new shoes in my awakened state. I had been privately dabbling in other worlds for awhile. But those other worlds did not pay the bills. I was a writer, but I wrote for free. I was a new painter, but come on. I spent years developing my spiritual path, but that knowledge felt so personal.
Today, I supplement my meager pension (retiring at age 55 has provided half of a full pension), with lots of new shoes. I paint at home and sell my art in a local gallery. I also enter my work in local artist exhibits. There are endless possibilities. I still keep a spiritual blog. I am an editor of a magazine for a spiritual community. I teach creative writing classes to adults. I tutor kids in their homes and coach individual novice writers. I can do all this because I am brave.
Today, I work 15 hours a week instead of 50. I just get by like I always have. I get to have lunch on my deck or take a walk on a whim. I can sit in my robe until I finally realize I want to get up. I get to be what I really am all day long. I don’t have to keep my self, my past, my beliefs, nor my language under wraps. I can say fuck whenever I wish and no one has to like it. I can put out an offering to the gods and cast runes or step barefoot onto the clover-laden lawn and call upon the earth’s energy.
Some days, I don’t wear any shoes at all.