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These Old Shoes

Wellness > Keep Going

By: Candice Kumai

These old shoes. I kept them for good reason, I kept them as a reminder.

In 2010, I could barely make rent. I lived in Williamsburg, off the Lorimer and Grand stop. I did everything in my power to be able to make the bill each month. I wrote for every magazine, every website, I taught cooking classes at Brooklyn Kitchen, I saved, I struggled, I didn’t let up.

I’d ride my bike all over Brooklyn searching for inspiration. I’d see my neighbor Chef Sam Mason all over town, also hustlin’ everywhere. I did work until 1am most nights, at my desk, writing my Stiletto Chef blog, filling my heart with recipes and food writing that meant something, writing my books. My roomie Rachel was so kind, most months, she’d spot me on rent until I could make it in full. (Thanks Rach, I didn’t forget.)

You didn’t know this, but when I was judging on Iron Chef America, and writing my second solo book, I just barely got by.

I kept these old shoes, as a reminder of the struggle.

I still wanted to run races and do my part in my community. So I ran. I ran Nike Women’s Marathons back then, just to stay sane. I ran all over Brooklyn. I couldn’t afford to buy a pair of running shoes.

My friend Matt, back in Cali, was so kind enough to intro me to Vida. Vida was at Nike Women’s in CA at the time + girl sent me these shoes. She sent me shoes to prep me for my race. She sent me these old shoes. She didn’t know about my struggle, but she knew of my work in television and publishing. And there are a handful of people that helped me through that time, only five years ago. For those individuals, I am beyond grateful, and I don’t forget. I still know exactly who they are.

I used to turn away help. I shunned at the thought. My friend Rico once said to me, after his parents were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, years back, he said to me, “Candice, some people want to help you, please let them.” I began to let up. I am stubborn, I am Japanese, I am not one to show my character flaws. And I definitely wasn’t someone who wanted to show you I was broke AF.

I’m a solo business girl, I’ve been independent with my own small business since, 2006. Started from the bottom, and struggled my whole way on my climb. I didn’t let up.

A lot can happen in almost 10 years. Progress. Yet, my agents would tell you, I never had it easy. Many odds were against me. I never counted those, I just worked with grit + kaizen.

As an analogy to where I am now and these shoes…I can’t close my closet anymore, because there are so many shoes. I am so grateful for each pair and for those who support my work. This isn’t about materialistic things, this is about measure, a contrast, a story, it may very well be The Universe/God’s way of tracking my progress.

My promise to each of you, and each of us learning +growing each day, is to share what matters most. To share more content that is meaningful, powerful and life-altering. Your struggles become your story and your story is what makes an impact, it is what becomes your legacy. No life that was ever perfect or flawless made history, change or an impact. Embrace those struggles, for they will give you that character and the grace, the poise that is absolutely unattainable without the struggle. It is invaluable to be able to be rich in character. 

Keep that one thing, that can help you to remember. These old shoes.

Again, this isn’t about materialistic things, it’s not about shoes (although I have a thing for them) it’s about making progress, it’s about measure. When you can look back at a few milestones and say to yourself, “Fuck, I got through that time”, that’s powerful, that’s growth, that’s change.
Let your cup of life be full of the good things and f all the rest, but honour the struggle it as it comes. The lessons become much louder as they settle and you create more space to see the whole picture. If you ever need me, I’m here for you.

with love xx ck

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