#19 Jen Mayer, Kitemath

Jen Mayer,

I can still picture them clearly: moss green suede, cork wedge heel, with a decorative tassel flair on the toe. I loved them. They were uncomfortable—but not prohibitively so. They were fun. And they would still be in style today. There were others: maroon red kitten heels with straps that I wore to my 10-year high school reunion. The BEST, most comfortable, went-with-everything pair of suede open-toed wedge sandals. They were the perfect neutral color that went with everything.

They are all gone. Given away at closet swaps—into the hands of trusted friends. I couldn’t bear to give them to complete strangers. It felt better knowing they would have good homes.

But parting with them didn’t come easy. Even now, writing this, I get emotional. By giving them away, taking that final, irreversible step, I was letting something else go, too.

Eighteen years ago, when I was 24 years old, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. On the whole, I’ve been very fortunate. I have had very few relapses and I am in good health. But the years have taken their toll and I struggle with balance and sensory issues—especially in my feet and hands. There came a point where heels—even wedges—weren’t an option any more. Rationally, I knew this. But emotionally, I wasn’t ready to accept it. I thought “maybe it will get better,” “maybe if I’m really strict with my diet and exercise, I can reverse the symptoms,” and “maybe it’s just temporary.”

So when I finally made the decision to get rid of those shoes, it was way more than gifting my friends some shoes I didn’t wear anymore. It was accepting the reality that it’s not going to get better, not everything is in our control and this is my life now.

But you accept where you’re at and move on. Today I’m more of a stylish, urban gym shoe kind of girl. I rather like my collection of grounded, comfortable shoes. I never worry about how far I need to walk. I’m always at the ready for an impromptu stroll or museum visit. I’m a big fan of flip flops and flats. And let’s be honest, when you live in Chicago, how often does the weather cooperate and you get to wear those cute green suede shoes anyway?