The STORY of FEET
I’ve been thinking a lot about what advice to give my brother who will be going to the States in a few weeks. This story is for him. This is about the story our feet tell.
At the risk of ending up in a gross discussion about feet, I want to start talking about figure skating. Commentators always marvel at the figure skaters with such strong extended feet. Strong extensions reveal themselves as soon as the blade lifts off the ice, whether in a simple footwork sequence or in a take off to a jump. A pointed toe will create a beautiful bodyline from head to skate. You can probably zoom into the skates on ice and just watch as they move through a routine, grazing the ice with an edge or a toe pick intermittently in a rhythmic pattern. Much of the skill of a skater you can tell from their feet. How strong are their edges when on ice, how strong are their extensions when off ice.
The POWER of FEET
The same is true with ballroom dancing. How you flex or point your feet as you move across the floor can reveal how you distribute your weight as you move. In badminton, how you speed through the court depends on whether you are flat footed or not. In volleyball, how solidly you can receive the ball depends on how grounded you are. In basketball, your feet are the ones carrying you through the full court in a drive that almost makes you appear unstoppable from the spectator’s seat. In taekwondo, I remember being so shy about walking into class with bare feet, those ten toes peaking underneath me, cold against the wooden floor. Later on, those ten toes saved me. In yoga, you try to ground yourself and reconnect to the earth by spreading your toes, especially when you move into standing poses that train your balance.
Feet tell us who we are and where we are. A few days ago, I visited one of the parks in Singapore that overlooked a pier. It was after a long day of walking around and working, so when we finally reached the park, I took my shoes off and walked towards the water. The sand tickled my feet as the water embraced them. This is the same pair of feet that feels the strain from wearing heels during a long day at work or after a long night of partying. This is the same pair of feet that enjoys fluffy slippers within the comforts of one’s home or as one gets ready for bed. This is the same pair of feet that cuddle under the covers. Blistered feet tell of how much we have worked; tired feet tell of a how much we have travelled; warm feet tell of a nice long bath that we deserved.
A REMINDER by FEET
I never really liked feet, so I never really thought of feet this way, but when I walked bare foot around my house yesterday—something my parents never really allowed us to do because of the bacteria that might be on the floor—there was something about it that brought me to the present moment and grounded me. I looked down at my feet, wiggled my toes, and told myself, despite all the troubles and the work, I am home. Looking down at my feet humbled me and reminded me of who I am and where I come from.
It’s funny because it is this same keeping in mind of my identity and roots, as it is the same set of feet, that will carry me athwart the dance floor, lift me up across the court, help me receive blow after blow in the volleyball match of life. It is how I work my identity and value my roots that will reveal the kind of person I am, like how feet reveal the skill of a skater. This is why regardless of how I might sometimes be ashamed and even try to hide my ten toes, these toes are those that started whatever journey with me and will take me to the places I have never been before.
So I ask you now to look down at your feet and tell me, where are you standing at this moment? What story do your feet tell?
Joan is a rising sophomore and member of the inaugural class of Yale-NUS College. She is currently working on several research projects under the Cognition and Attention Lab. She is also working on her own independent study of the ontology and expression of the self. When not working on research, Joan can be found at either the ice skating rink or the dance studio, skating her heart away.