#04 Chris Pitcher, Empact Labs


Chris Pitcher
Empact Labs

They're a pair of Timberland boots. They are two-tone, leather and suede, and have a wood bottom. Though they’ve been a lot of places, they didn't make it into the backpack for the trip around the world.

To me, they have signified a lot of the principles regarding their clean aesthetic — while also having a "wilderness but stylish" essence to them. And because the sole is wooden, they leave a clean print rather than something that can be easily identified as a specific shoe. At one point I tied knots into the ends of the laces, and I've never had to tie them since.

When I bought these boots I was in Grad school, but also working in the night-life industry in Chicago and they kind of played double duty. They were fine shoes to go out in, but they were also just all-around good boots, especially in the winter.

The most significant question that I was grappling with when I purchased them was how to rise above mediocrity.

Because at the time, I had been shown that I was incredibly intelligent, yet I hadn't felt that I had expressed my intellect in a way that turned into anything that I was really proud of.  I had a lot of "back doors" that I liked to use; and as soon as I got close to achieving something great, I would just kind of allow myself to take my foot off of the gas for a bit. I was a huge procrastinator and thought that I was smart enough and could do everything at the last minute. And I told myself all of those stories.  And though I could see it, I couldn't figure out how to overcome it. Especially in Grad school, where I saw the continuation of the story of my life in a pattern that no longer worked for me. I had attended a lot of different schools and every time, in the beginning, I would ask myself, “how hard is this school?” And after diving in and getting all A’s, or testing how far I needed to push myself, I would fall back and know just how much I needed to do to just get by. 

Although I wasn't interested in that way of life anymore, I didn't know how to change my behavior other than to keep asking myself that same big question. And for me, I saw that it came down to value. Specifically, the value that I held with myself. It came down to my own belief in my worthiness, and to acknowledging how everything that I am could be worth what I could create. And in order to feel that inside of myself, I had to go on that journey to figure it out.

It's been one of those switches that have been so drastic that I have a hard time even remembering my life before and how I could just sit by and let stuff hang over my head. Of course, now I simply feel like there is so much stuff hanging over my head because I'm always doing stuff and there's always more stuff to do.

Some of the ways that I saw this show up in Grad school was that I'd never felt like I was part of the popular crowd. And by being in nightlife in Chicago, I gave myself the sense of "finally being a part of it". But I eventually realized that while being a part of the in-crowd is fun, it's not that much greater. All of the popular people are still dealing with the same problems. They are still trying to figure out their value. And whether that value is in their physical manifestation, or if that's in how much money they spend on bottle service, then they are still all just trying to prove themselves and live what they think is the life — even if they wake up the next day and are tired and exhausted of the life that they live. So being in night-life and in design school at the same time was definitely a part of coming to this understanding as well. At some point, I realized that I was choosing not to take full advantage of my education because I needed to fulfill this social aspect of myself and find my value in that. And although I learned unbelievable amounts, it's also one of those things where I now realize how much I would love to be a student again. I mean, I'll always be learning, but in the way of responsibility, it would be nice.