Over a decade ago, when I was still in high school, I started researching nutrition and proper diet in earnest, which was probably due to gaining weight after quitting soccer my freshman year. Junior year I joined the cross country team and made the decision I would no longer eat fast food.
I decided I would go out with a bang, have a last fast food meal and that would be that. So I went to McDonald’s, probably ordered a large chicken nugget combo and sat down with it, fastidiously placing a napkin and ketchup in just the right places, knowing it was my Last Fast Food Meal, and ate it. It wasn’t very good. I’m sure it was cooked per usual McDonald’s standards, but the clouds didn’t open as I finished eating it and pronounce me free of fast food forever and the food was not satisfying enough to leave me with some sort of closure.
I know I tried again. It may have been one or two nearly identical experiences. I wanted the meal to be perfect, something to remember, something decadent I could carry around with me as I improved my diet. I could say, “fast food was mighty tasty, but I’ve moved on now. My tastes have changed to align with what’s good for me and I prefer a baked filet of tilapia and a side salad,” or whatever it was I was eating at the time. I finally decided that I could not abide giving McDonald’s more of my money for an experience I found sub-par and stopped going there, which was the entire point to begin with. It was not the clean break I had hoped for; it was silly and it was messy.
The point is that I had already moved on. Only in hindsight could I have built up fast food so much to think that some ideal Last Meal was even possible. In reality, it was impossible to expect perfection from something I had already acknowledged I would be better without. I wanted to erect a monument to the past and it kept me back from the real action and decision of the present.
Unfortunately, I am still affected by the same manner of thinking. Perfectionism has some value in helping produce quality work, but it’s also a trait that leads to inaction and for me, to holding on to things for too long. Like these:
These sandals are probably from middle school and every soccer girl from Northeast Ohio owned a pair just like them. You wore them before and after games either in your socks and shin guards or barefoot, when it was time to take your cleats off, and the round plastic protrusions (there is probably a snazzy name for these) massaged your beat-up feet. Often, it hurt, but that was part of the point – you were sporty, you could handle the discomfort for the promise of more comfort.
In the years after soccer, I used the sandals as warm weather slippers and designated them for indoor use only, my equivalent to Japanese house slippers. They served me well. Then, they started to fall apart. The little plastic pieces started to fall off in other places besides the toes (which was common) and then one of the straps broke. Nevertheless, I did not want to give them up. I duct-taped them and continued using them until it no longer held them together. The worst part was that the left sandal was still “perfectly fine,” which made the thought of replacing both of them even harder. Alas, footwear functions as a set.
I kept the old pair initially because I wanted them as a reference. These sandals were once much more popular and there would be several different pairs on display at the local sporting goods store. Years later, and months after the demise of my sandals when my husband and I finally made a trip to Dick’s, there was one pair available and they were slightly narrower than I would have liked, but they fit just fine and were probably the closest thing I would find to the old pair without going online. The receipt shows that I bought them on March 26th, 2015.
The most important and troubling part of this story is that I kept the old sandals for over a year after I bought new ones. I think I wanted to take a nice picture of them by which to remember them. After all, I could never buy the exact same pair, and wasn’t accuracy of memory important? How could I just send them to a landfill? Wasn’t there some way to wrest just a little more utility from them? I am embarrassed by this now. Rationally, I know my memory does not need a pair of broken-down sandals to recall my soccer days. To be honest, a lot of those memories are not even particularly pleasant and quitting soccer may have been the first mature, adult decision I had to make.
What I do know is that around August of that year, I decided I would use the sandals in this blog. I mentioned that it took me a while to actually launch the blog and the sandals languished with me. Several times I thought to throw them away, but didn’t, because I had yet to get a proper photo – which now, in addition to some sort of misplaced sentimentality, I had the added reason of a better blog post. This post was going to be that first post I mentioned before – the picture of the sandals and the account of their removal. I may have even placed them in the garbage can and then fished them out.
In the meantime, my new sandals were not usable because I stepped in cat puke. Instead of cleaning them, I moved the puke-covered sandal to the basement for later cleaning and promptly added it to a long list of things that bother me, but not sufficiently enough to cajole me into action. I wanted to wear a pair of the sandals, but wore thicker socks instead, since it was winter. The new sandals cost about 30 dollars, but as you can see, the old and new have taken up way more time and energy than they ever should have.
So, with that said, I am a little sad that I still needed to write about the sandals. I got the picture after all. I think this blog, which I imagined would celebrate my small triumphs, has actually caused me to procrastinate and feel more frustrated. This post is an example, not of desirable action, but the opposite – it will remind me now of what not to do. I think I have learned something, however, and now that the blog is up and running and I am out of excuses, it should only get better from here.
I have thrown the old sandals away (even now, writing this, I resisted saying “in the trash,” deciding it was too cruel) and have cleaned the new sandals of cat puke (which took all of 3 minutes). It feels good to be wearing them again, but probably not so good as to justify all of that mental clutter I had to carry around to reach this point. Clearly, it’s not the things of the matter that are important at all, but my attitude towards them. Instead of eulogizing the sandals any further, all I want to say is, “Next, please. Moving on…”