The Tap Shoes

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

On my first day of third grade, I wore tap shoes to school. The majority of my elementary school years was a blur, but I vividly remember this occurrence as it is the earliest memory I have of going decisively against the crowd. They were a creamy beige color with a dainty ribbon tied into a tiny bow, and aluminum taps that were so reflective if you turned them towards the light in a certain way, they’d blind you. Although my interest in dance was short-lived, those shoes made me feel like an icon, a Fred Astaire of some sort. My eight-year-old self made the executive decision to wear them to school.

So when the day came, I, with the utmost defiance, slipped on the tap shoes, ran onto the bus, and made my way to school. As I strode into the building, nearly all the students turned their heads in response to the rhythmic clacking that echoed from the aluminum taps hitting the shiny, epoxy floors. Only a few hours into the school day, my English teacher pulled me aside and curtly explained that the noise from my shoes was distracting, then proceeded to walk me down to the nurse’s office. The nurse was lighthearted about the situation, mentioning how my footwear dilemma was the first one she had encountered in her career. After a brief discussion with the teacher, the nurse pulled out a roll of masking tape and began taping the bottom of the shoes in order to dull out their sound. Considering that I chose to wear them solely for their unique silver taps, I was thoroughly disappointed. My special shoes were now like every other pair I owned, with no sign of the individuality I possessed at such a young age.

My footwear of choice that day was not to purposely garner attention, but instead represented the non-conformist attitudes I continued to stand by throughout my life. To my fifth-grade school pictures, I wore a ridiculous pink dress because it was my desire to do so, and even then, I was comfortable with being different from the majority. Fitting in with my peers was a secondary concern when compared to my need for self-expression. As my academic career progressed and my interests grew, I learned to embrace what was unique to me – even if it was challenging, even if it was outlandish. I didn’t dress, act, or even draw a certain way in order to seek approval from my peers, but because my nonconformist qualities were what shaped my identity – mostly, after a time, my psychology.

Is the power of non-conformity only displayed through outward appearances? Of course not. Even when faced with hardships or opportunities, I approach them differently than someone else standing in my shoes might. And in doing so, I make the problems I encounter my own, and often, come up with a solution that no one would have expected.

Those old tap shoes and frilly dresses are most likely stuffed into a closet collecting dust, yet they are still a reminder of my non-conformist choices that I am proud of – the very first symbols of individuality that eventually shaped my life and my future.

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