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To be in my Shoes

A software engineer whose passion is spreading wisdom and beauty through the art of writing.


It was supposed to be a typical and tedious day of work for me as a software developer when I was caught off guard by my colleague's reaction when I audaciously said that “fate is a traitor”. I don’t know what I was thinking but those words came out to me like a premature fetus that’s tired of its mother’s womb. To the outside perception, I was tactless. That could be true but I was just emotionally exhausted. I just couldn’t allow that certain pain to devour my soul and so, I had to put them into words and blurt them out in my heart’s behest.

Maybe he was shocked by that statement or he just probably sensed the pain and truth in it. Without any hint of hesitation, he reacted immediately by saying, “John Mark, your future lies as to how you react with life’s circumstances. You should focus on the things that can be done instead of dealing with problems that are out of your control”.

Well, maybe he’s right. Maybe my mind was just too preoccupied by my protests and objections that I unknowingly was spending a lot of my energy dissecting every aspect of life’s mysteries and its unfairness. And maybe my vision was too clouded with agony that I could no longer see the silver linings in every situation.

Feeling invalidated and tactless as I am , I replied, “There are just things that we would never understand unless we are put into a certain situation”. Those lines may sounded banal to him but that was my truth. Shocked as he could be, he continued with his work. And the entire office was filled with awkward silence of egos. I wanted to get out of my chair and run into the bathroom and cry but I would look silly and unprofessional. And so, I laid back in my chair and took a deep breath, pretending to contain my emotions. Deep inside, my heart wanted to stop beating, it wanted to take a break and really think why was I so offended by his reaction? He was absolutely right. I am such a pessimist.

A gush of realizations flowed out from my stubborn and sensitive heart. I was offended because he feels like he understands me and it’s easy for him to say upfront to me that I should be like this or like that, that I should be more of this and less like that. His understanding was solely out of his understanding, he did not feel my pain. I now know why it’s very unusual for me to confront other people and say to them how they should live their lives. It is because of my personal belief that, no one has the ability to grasp our totality unless he or she becomes us. What I mean is, some people can understand, but they can never feel. And out of that sole understanding comes shallow judgments and sympathy.

Yes, it’s easy to say that we should not focus on the things that are out of our control but that’s not easy to do. We all came from different backgrounds and we were molded by different experiences. The immensity and shape of pain varies from one person to another. Take for instance, the homeless in the streets, the quadriplegic beggar outside the church, the uneducated and the homosexuals. How can you tell the closeted gays to immediately accept themselves and live a life of optimism and productivity. Have you been in their shoes?, have you ever felt the pressure that they are actually feeling? have you ever been bullied for acting differently?. How can you tell the homeless and the beggars that according to the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book, they should not focus their energy on the things that amplify negativity in their lives. Have you ever been hungry in a day with no roof to at least contemplate your life and how you should ought to live when in fact, you could not even put food in your rubbish table.

That certain feeling reminded me of a Lady Gaga song about sexual assault - “Til it Happens To You”.

You tell me hold your head up

Hold your head up and be strong

'Cause when you fall, you gotta get up

You gotta get up and move on

Tell me, how the hell could you talk

How could you talk?

'Cause until you walk where I walk

It's just all talk

'Til it happens to you, you don't know

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How it feels

How it feels

'Til it happens to you, you won't know

It won't be real (how could you know?)

No it won't be real (how could you know?)

Won't know how I feel

'Til your world burns and crashes

'Til you're at the end, the end of your rope

'Til you're standing in my shoes, I don't wanna hear a thing from you

From you, from you, 'cause you don't know

The lyrics sums up the feeling of being told to move on, to be stronger, to try to look life in a brighter light. Yet, it’s still difficult and people rarely understand that because they are not “standing in our shoes”.

When you are just the observer of others’ life, it’s very easy to tell how did they falter and how they should fix their mistakes and move forward. Your understanding is based on your observation. You recognize the pain but you don’t feel it and that lack of feeling discounts the quality of your understanding. A powerful quote from a 1997 Iranian Drama Film titled “A taste of Cherry” clearly and profoundly explained it,

“If I told you, you wouldn't understand.

It's not that you don't understand but because you can't feel what I feel.

You can sympathize, understand, show compassion. But feel my pain? No.”

© 2020 Juan Marcus Puentas


BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on June 15, 2020:

Very good expressive writing.

It is true no one can know exactky how one feels. I guess we are always taught to try to help out others...thus the advice pours out.

It's like when on is one really knows his inner fears.

I do find it best to have a good outlook even in times of despair. Just in case it is true that the universe listens to your thoughts.

What you believe will eventually come true.

Thanks for sharing.

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