Janelle Sirigos


A Moment In My Life That Changed Me

            Can something seemingly as mundane as a pair of shoes significantly change the direction of one’s life? As the reader, you may have cocked your head to the left and whispered to yourself, “huh?”  As the writer, I am pleased to announce the answer is yes. It will bring me great pleasure to show you how.

            Shoes are the topic of many clichés. “You don’t know my life until you've walked a mile in my shoes.” “You can tell how clean a person’s behind is by looking at the back of their shoes.” I have heard these statements many times while growing up. It is my belief that because of these clichés I have been emotionally scarred for life!

I have a shoe fetish. Crazy as a loon as it sounds (Whoever came up with that cliché? I have seen loons. They don’t appear any more nuttier than the next bird!) It’s true. I love shoes. I have hundreds of pairs. This is as literal as one can get. I have closets, shoe racks, compartments and boxes that contain shoes for every occasion. It is a blessing that my house is as big as it is. I have managed to fill it with more shoes!  Once the heel (the backside of the shoes) becomes damaged or worn, if they cannot be repaired,  I throw them out. THIS is all because of the second cliché mentioned above. I don’t want anyone to think my backside is dirty!

            The truth is, a simple pair of Timberland boots DID change the course of my life.

            Flash back to 1993. I am in my late twenties and newly divorced. I am walking through the airport with my yellow ring neck parrot in his wire cage in one hand, designer purse all decked out in flashy gems in the other, whilst sporting  a pair of white, high-heeled pumps, acid washed jeans, a floral Bongo half shirt and “tall” hair that would have made any 80’s rock band singer jealous. I had just left the beautiful state of California where I lived with an OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) bodybuilder. He was a BEAUTIFUL guy to look at; BUT man! Was he nuts! I am talking about a guy who would come home and line his shoes up against the wall and pull the laces taught and forward to “put them away” for the night. If I ever wanted to make him mad, out of spite, all I had to do was kick those shoes and man oh man! All double hockey stick broke loose. It all seemed quite funny at times to see a grown man fuss over silly things like the neatness of a shoe lace.

Life with “the bodybuilder” was all about him. My dreams and plans meant nothing. In fact, I had neither. I simply tagged along for the ride while he played out his fantasy of becoming a professional in the world of bodybuilding.  All I had to show for 8 years of commitment to this guy was a great body. I didn’t have to work! I worked out at my leisure and rode my horse at whim.

But the time came when I left him. Returning to New York was hard. I had to go back home to “my mommy” and listen to my grandmother say, “I told you so” about a gazillion times. Oy! Talk about rough. I mean, we’re talking about the lesser of two evils here. Live with an OCD bodybuilder or my family. The fact was, my family was the more lenient sentence.

Back at home, I needed to get on with my life. This was hard to do! I had not thought about me for years. I had not one clue who I was or what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” All I knew at this point was fitness and working out. Luckily for me this all occurred at a time where fitness was booming. There were many gyms that opened up during my absence on Staten Island. There was now a World Gym AND a Gold’s Gym available to the public for daily torture sessions. This was a far cry from the regular “sweat shop” where the clientele were strictly men with all of their testosterone raging and arm pits stinking, which was all that was there when I left in 1985.

I got a job at Gold’s Gym within five minutes of  walking through the front door. I was a membership consultant (ie; a glorified used car salesman decked out in sports wear) and a personal trainer.  The only thing “the powers that be” wanted to see on your body was a Gold’s Gym shirt, any shirt with the logo on it whether it be a sweat shirt, a tee shirt or a tank top. As long as I showed up to work in one of the above mentioned, all was Kosher.  NOW, the accessories were free game! What I wore with my Gold’s Gym shirt mattered not. Hence, I introduce to you, my Timberland boots. In case you are not familiar with Timberland boots I will describe them. Once described, it is my assertion that you will KNOW EXACTLY what they are. The proverbial light will shine above your head.

Let it be said that I wore Timberland boots long before it became fashionable for a woman to do so AND I still wear ‘em up to this day (occasion permitting!).  Timberland boots are construction boots.  They are tan. They have 5 lace holes to lace and 3 “eye” hooks that rise above up over the ankle. The soles are a yellowish tan and the tread has a clover pattern down the middle. They are your average, everyday, construction worker boot. I wore them then, and I wear them now because of the support they provide to the foot. I have high arches and weak ankles. This is a recipe for disaster. Picture a Flamingo in all of its pink beauty. They are long legged and graceful, as they walk through the swamp lands, hard to imagine a Flamingo tripping huh? Now imagine the flamingo unable to walk on its “high heels” and taking a “digger” face first into the mud, unable to stand on its stilts; imagine a bull in a china shop. That’s me.

So here I stand in the middle of the gym.  I have just sold a membership to a woman named Yvonne, short in stature, pear shaped, quite unassuming, with blonde hair. She appeared to be your average, everyday, stay-at-home mom. This was not the case.

The conversation went as follows. Now picture this. The woman is face down on a machine. She is grasping the handles at the head of the bench; she is lying belly down on, and her booty is in the air. She is supposed to raise her ankles to the ceiling with a bar that is stretched across the lower portion of the leg between the calf and the ankle with weights attached by cable, keeping the pelvis flat, thus, working the hamstring muscles that are located at the back of the leg above the calf and below your butt.

“What are you doing wearing those boots? Are you in construction?”

“No,” I replied and continued with, “but if someone were to offer me a job in construction I’d take it in a heartbeat.” (Heck. Gold’s Gym was only paying ten dollars per hour!)

As it turned out, she was a construction company owner. She was a female operating in a field dominated by men. She saw potential in me. So much so that she offered to pay my way through trade school. I excelled in each course and was earning eighteen dollars per hour as an apprentice in the union at the height of my career. I traveled everywhere with the New York City District Council of Carpenters Technical School to every function they had. With them, for example, I built a house in the middle of New York City for Habitat for Humanity in 1 work day with a group of other apprentices and landed my picture in every newspaper in the region with the Governor of New York who, at the time, was Mario Cuomo. The Governor peered out of the 2nd floor Cape Cod house dormer window as I sat beside him, firmly planted on the roof with a big thumbs up for the camera to see and capture.

I was in high demand and experienced my proverbial five minutes of fame at least 5 times over. I am ever so grateful for the opportunity I had been given. I took the carpentry world, a trade dominated by men and Staten Island Carpenters Local #20 by storm.

To have experienced what I had, all of my pride, all of my family’s pride and all of my peers’ envy was a moment in my life that helped create the domineering, confident and strong-minded woman you see today. And to think, I owe it all to a pair of Timberland boots which I still own to this day.

Does that “pair of shoes” still seem silly and mundane? I bet not.


Copyright 2009 Janelle Sirigos

Born and raised in New York, Janelle Sirigos currently resides in The Lakes Region of New Hampshire. She is currently working on her Bachelors Degree in Accounting through Hesser College. She enjoys spending time with her two boys, riding her horse, and writing about her life which is full of mayhem and mishaps. Her favorite quote: "Never a dull moment!"