College students entered the empty house through the massive front doors. I stood with Angela, a fellow wallflower, and watched the frat guys trying to impress the girls for whom saying “Not” at the end of a sentence never got tired.

“Whose house is this?” I asked.

“Some guy named ‘Noah,’” Angela said with a shrug. “He goes to school on the East Coast. His parents asked him to coordinate their move over the break.”

“Is he here?”

“No,” the girl replied. “And it’s causing quite the stir with the sorority set.”

“I’m here with Barbie,” I volunteered after a few moments of silence. I pointed to a tall, thin girl wearing a Kelly Kapowski floral sundress.

Angela looked skeptical.

“I periodically help her with calculus.”

She smiled and pointed to a tall, sandy-haired guy taking a chug from a beer bong. “I’m here with Ken.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Ewww. He’s my step-brother.”

Then Angela pointed to a few girls in crop tops and stonewashed denim huddled around a bathroom door. They knocked repeatedly and talked through the door, trying to comfort someone from the outside.

“Apparently, we just missed the excitement,” she said. “Your friend Barbie introduced a new game. One that made the pledges line up and take off their shoes. Then Barbie lined the shoes up from least expensive to most expensive.”

I shuddered. “So everyone could rank the have and have-nots.”

“Yep,” Angela continued. “I got here to see the girls get back in their shoes.” She shook her head. “The girl in the bathroom was at the end of the line.”

A brown-haired girl walked out of the bathroom, wiping her eyes. Her cheeks were blushed with embarrassment.

I looked at her chunky sandals, as did most of the room.

Glad to have my too wispy bangs that too often covered my eyes, I looked away from Chunky Sandals and then down at myself. Sure, my oversized flannel shirt, skintight bodysuit, and high-waisted jeans were sweet . . . But my knockoff Dr. Martens suddenly made me lose courage.

As I compared myself to the other girls in the room—even Chunky Sandals—I felt my mask of self-confidence slipping.

I looked for a quick exit.

There it was. The giant double doors at the front of the house.

“It’s been great,” I started, “but—“

The sound of thunder interrupted my goodbye as the double doors opened.

It wasn’t thunder though.

The tall and lanky driver of a Harley Davidson revved the engine and drove confidently into the living room, parting a sea of wide-eyed college students.

Once stopped, he raised his visor and scanned the crowd. Our eyes met.

“Noah!” Barbie shouted, causing me to jump and quickly turn away, embarrassed that he caught me ogling.

He ignored Barbie and passed me a helmet. “Wanna ride?”

This sort of thing happens in trashy romance fiction,” I thought. “Not in the real world.”

In the corner of my eye I saw Barbie, bee-lining her way to the motorcycle with a smile as wide as the Mississippi. Ready to purr her way into my spot.

Decision time: Adventure versus Caution.

I bit the inside of my cheek and then threw one leg over the seat of the seasoned bike. My arms wrapped tightly around Noah’s waist.

The crowd parted again and we rode through the open doors into the dark street. The thrill I felt as we drove through the city, combined with the roar of the engine and the mix of sweat and Drakkar Noir was magnificent – despite the torture of cruising while wearing a bodysuit with those horrible snaps at the crotch.

I felt renewed, confident, and more fearless than I’d ever felt in my whole life.

When we arrived back at the house, Noah revved the engine and the doors opened on cue.

“Just let me know if you want to ride again,” he said as I got off the bike.

I felt the weight of Barbie’s stare—and the disbelief that covered her face. But my newfound confidence put a skip in my step. And I planned to skip right out the door.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve got to go. But if you’re thinking about taking someone else out, that girl over there in the rock’n chunky platform sandals . . .”

I pointed to the girl now standing alone next to the bathroom door.

“Yeah?” He said, intrigued by Chunky Platforms staring back at him.

“Stroke exhaust is her perfume.”

Micah and Maddox,

At some point in your life – probably well before a college party – you’ll hear a voice saying you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough. The voice will say, “Your shoes aren’t good enough.” When you hear that voice, just tell it to “SHUT UP!”

I turn 40 this week and I’m proud to say that most days I keep that ugly voice at bay. Most days, I’m comfortable in my skin, calm about the challenges I face, and grateful for the success I’ve achieved, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant.

But there are still days that I chase what others have – instead of looking around at how far I’ve come. And when I do that, I lose sight of my blessings. I lose sight of what’s really important.

Because in the end, whether you’re 20, 40, or 90, it doesn’t matter how great your shoes are if you don’t accomplish anything good in them.