I loathed that boot. It was this massive, grey, bulky, thing that almost reached my knee, and it was an eyesore. I wanted out as soon as they strapped it to my left leg.
I was a freshman on the cross country team, and that was my entire world. I wasn’t a stranger to shin injuries, but forcing me into that boot to try to heal the oncoming fractures in my tibula was the last straw.
I was defeated. My shins had failed me once and for all. This boot felt like a third leg growing out of me. I felt like I was constantly drawing attention, and I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to seem weak, like I couldn’t keep up with my team. I didn’t see the boot as a tool to heal my legs and get me running again. I saw it only as a hindrance, an object that had wrecked my existence as a cross country runner.
Day after day, I was put on the stationary bike while my teammates ran together, played together, sat together at dinner. And I tried so hard to make sure I had a spot at the dinner table. That I was still part of the team, despite the fact that I’d only run one meet and then been sidelined indefinitely.
On the other hand, I had the mark on me now. There were several of us hobbling around campus with a boot—the lacrosse players, the field hockey players, and me—all bearing the mark of an athlete. And with the signature green and orange Gatorade water bottle in tow, I belonged. At a school of 5,000 students, where you were automatically plucked and tossed into a group, I was clinging to one by the straps of my boot.
So I couldn’t run outside with my teammates. I could still claim a spot at the cafeteria. I could still count on them to let me crash on the floor of their off-campus apartment after a drunken night. I could still call myself an athlete. I was one of them, boot and all.
Until I wasn’t. I was impatient, and I determined that my shins had decided my fate for me. I didn’t give the boot the time of day, and so I turned it in, along with my uniform, believing that I my shins just couldn’t handle college racing.
I was no longer an athlete, and as a freshman in college, I lost my place. Until three years later, when I found it again at The Captain’s Log, the school newspaper. But that’s a whole other story for another exciting time.
The point is, today, I’ve been put in a boot again. It’s a little different than the first beast of a boot: this one’s black, comes up to the middle of my shin—like a tanner, younger version of Das College Boot.
This time, I welcome the boot. The boot’s going to heal apparent surface stress fracture I have on the top of my right foot.
The boot comes because of a poor taste in walking shoes, from running around a new lake, from exploring new lands. It’s here because I walked for miles along the Houston Bayou in flip flops, around the San Antonio Riverwalk in cowboy boots (hint: they’re not actually made for walking). It’s here because in a few days, I’ll be walking around San Francisco, exploring a new city with some old friends.
It’s a lesson in knowing comfort over cuteness (seriously, I don’t recommend cowboy boots for more than a mile); in exploring your city, your state, your country, your world, by any means available to you; and in maintaining a positive attitude when unfavorable objects become strapped to your foot for long periods of time.