For 10 years, my Mondays through Fridays started with the 6:20 am MetroNorth train into NYC and a walk from Grand Central to 1345 Avenue of the Americas. Wearing conservative and comfortable flat shoes, I walked briskly to my office in the pursuit to knock off 4,500 steps from my 10,000 step goal. Once in my office, I would open my closet and scan my collection of Stuart Weitzman “pumps” neatly stacked in clear plastic shoe boxes, organized by color. Black and navy shoes filled most of the rows, and each had a twist of fashion like quilted leather toe caps, gun metal heels, gold brushed buckles or perforated leather along the sides. They all had one thing in common: 4 to 5 inch heels.
As I took off my flats and slipped into my chosen work shoe for the day, a metamorphosis inevitably happened:
I went from a mother of three wearing comfortable flats to get in her exercise that day to the Head of Human Capital ready to take on any business challenge in her powerful pumps, comfort be damned.
Slipping on those shoes made me feel like Wonder Women putting on her bulletproof cuffs. As Allie Gemmell wrote in her article Wonder Women’s Got Some Serious Super Powers, “Wonder Women is [not] a slouch of a superhero. If anything, her superpowers indicate she is an incredibly strong and capable heroine who was every bit as powerful as her male counterparts.”
My black suede studded pumps with stacked 5-inch heels and 1-inch platforms made me feel that kind of powerful.
As I described in my article Finding Kindness Through Chronic Lyme, the time came to transport my bins filled with power from my 31st floor corner office with a spectacular view of Central Park to my third floor home office with a view of my backyard. I did leave two pairs of shoes for my successor: a pair of navy grosgrain leather pumps and a pair of black patent leather pumps, along with a note:
“May you feel the power of these shoes during your most challenging times. You’re going to be great. I believe in you.”
With lyme came arthritis which prevented me from even putting on my power shoes, let alone walking in them. I was reluctant to give away my shoes given they were artifacts of an extraordinarily fulfilling period of my life that I wanted to remember. But little by little, I gave them away to my friends and colleagues, only saving my most precious pumps, including the ones pictured above: patent iridescent leather with a chrome nickel buckle adorned with a sliver leather bow and matching chrome silver 4 inch heels.
Last week, I decided it was time to “pass the power” and give my cherished pumps away.
I gave them to an executive who worked with me for a decade, becoming one of my very closest friends. I presented each pair to her with a description and a story of the situation in which I wore them: my first Partner meeting, my first Board meeting, the time I debated with the CEO about the drawbacks of anonymous 360 feedback. I had given her many shoes over the past few years, but she knew this shoe collection was special to me; giving them to her marked a closed chapter of my life. She understood the significance of this “passing of power” ceremony, and I was grateful for her respect and patience with me as I savored the event.
Did I give every last one of my power pumps to her? I did, with one exception: a pair of Stuart Weitzman taupe & ivory snakeskin 5-inch stiletto pumps. Those were a gift from my then 16-year old son, now 27, an incredibly thoughtful gesture to demonstrate that he really understood me.
Those shoes were an extraordinary gift from my son, and marked a milestone melding of mother and executive.
I will always keep those snakeskin shoes, polished and perfect in their clear plastic bin, accessible to view whenever I want. So while I passed on the power of my shoe collection to women who could leverage that power to bring out the very best in themselves, I kept the shoes given to me by my oldest son. For those shoes, despite the fact that I will never wear them again, still have the ability to make me feel all kinds of powerful.