Shoes. I love shoes. Some might even say I'm a sneakerhead. But that wasn't always the case. I came to the USA from Mexico when I was in 1st grade. We ended up in Chicago in the dead middle of winter. No winter jackets, no winter clothes and you guessed it no appropriate shoes. Throughout that though my family was happy. We were finally all together. My dad had come before us to work and get a place set up for us. I close my eyes and remember how much I missed him while he was gone. Being a father myself I now know how much sacrifice that took. Growing up we didn't have much but when we could splurge my dad would take us to Gurnee Mills (a very popular outlet mall in Illinois) we would walk around for hours to get out of the house and just look around. Sometimes we even purchased items we needed. Now I grew up during the Jordan Era. I lived in Chicago and  the Chicago Bulls were dominating the NBA. My first pair of really nice shoes were the Pippen Air Uptempos. They were expensive. I begged my parents that whole day at the mall. Finally they said yes but with the stipulation that these would be my shoes the  whole school year since that was the budget for 2-3 pairs of shoes. I said yes and cherished those shoes. I took such good care of them that my parents agreed to get me the playoff 8s next. After that it's a whirlwind.  

 

Those shoes taught me the value of a dollar. My dad waking up at the crack of dawn to go to work EVERYDAY taught me that hard work pays off. After that I focused on school and once I could work I got a job and guess what I did? Bought  more shoes and supported my way through high school and college. I found myself like my father waking up super early to go to work and coming home super late after class. I landed a job at Nike part time hauling boxes in and out of the back of house  while I was in school. Let me tell you… THE SHOES. I have had the privilege to see some of the nicest shoes, being around the most amazing athletes and best work culture. After graduation from DePaul University I ended up making Nike a career.  I’ve been with Nike for 21 years now and learned an abundance of knowledge. I have opened countless stores with some of the coolest people. I can't believe this kid who came here knowing zero english and not dressed for those cold Chicago winters now is running a multi million dollar business and I get to do it all wearing my sneakers. 

 

Things weren't always easy but I did it. I didn't do it alone. My parents really stood by my side and supported my dreams and always pushed me. I eventually did meet my wife at Nike  and had my son who we call a NIke baby. We both worked together while she was pregnant and eventually she stepped away to raise our son and I could focus on my career. We have lived in 3 different states and added a daughter along the way.  After all these years I love my life. I love what I do and who I do it for.    Now that I live a better life and can provide for my kids, it's definitely harder to teach them the meaning of a dollar when I can just go out and get them whatever pair of shoes they want. But all it takes is one pair of the right shoes, right? My kids have to find their Pippen Uptempos and cherish them and figure out  what their passion is and along the way i'll cheer them on and support them just like my mom and dad did for me.   

 

So yeah, shoes. I love shoes. They are so much more than what's on my feet. They are my dad waking up at the crack of dawn to go to work for 12 hours 7 days a week. They are my mom being a homemaker of three kids. They are waking up and going to work then going to class and staying up until midnight to finish a paper. They are working overtime because you have a baby on the way and they are counting on you. They are moving your family multiple times and asking them to take a leap of faith for your career. They are finally being able to sit back and say “I'm Living The American Dream.”   

 

-Roberto Castellanos

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