When I was a little girl, I hated shoes. I didn’t want to be confined to the fabric of the socks and the compression of the shoes around my feet. I wanted to be free. I wanted to let my toes touch the cool grass under the shade trees in the summer. To squish my toes into the mud around the creekbed. To climb the big oak and grip the branches as I pretended to be an acrobat.

We lived on a gravel rock road and occasionally a stray rock would find its way into the cool grass that I took so much pleasure in. Yep, you guessed it. I always found it with my foot. It would hurt. It would bruise. The hurt would subside, but the soreness remained. Then the soreness would be gone but the discoloration from the bruise would be there for just a bit longer. Finally, my foot would be completely healed. But it did not matter how many rocks I stepped on, how many bruises I got or how badly it hurt, I continued to be free in the cool grass, running without shoes. I wanted to be free and the pain was simply part of the journey.

I didn’t change that much when I became an adult. I still want to feel free; to go have some kind of adventure. But I have had some hard days. OK, who am I kidding? I have had an abundance of hard days. I’ve had a few hard years. I’ve had times that I lay in bed hoping that my weighted blanket would swallow me whole, enveloping me in its warmth and comfort. And yet, even through the hard days, the ones that dropped me to my knees as the weight of the world came down on me, I got back up. I did not give up. I was not going to give in. I was not going to let this thing beat me. I had bigger things to do. I had a purpose. I had a goal. I was put here for a reason and I was going to see it through.

Hard honesty … I still have no idea what that purpose is yet. I have waffled between ideas of grandeur and start-up companies. I have changed my mind a million, plus one, times. Yet I endure; Because it was those really hard days that taught me what I was made of. They taught me what I was capable of. They taught me not to fear the darkness. Now, I’m not going to go skipping into it, but I don’t have to be afraid of it. I am healing. I am changing. I will continue to heal and continue to change for the rest of my life. A new person every day. Wow! How did I get so lucky?

So these days, I spend as much time as I can running through the cool grass without shoes. I listen to the wind blow through the trees. I sit quietly and soak up the sun’s rays and I wait. I wait for the clarity to plan my next adventure … whatever that looks like.

Sue Vest is the Weeklies Bureau managing editor. The name of her column, Running Without Shoes, comes from the idea that sometimes you are unprepared for what life sends you, but it’s guaranteed to be an adventure. Email her at svest@heralddemocrat.com.