Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Defining Personal Style...Sort Of

So I was just thinking all about personal style and what mine is exactly. And by “just thinking” I mean five minutes ago, so bear with me. Anyway, I was trying to conjure up a description of my personal style, but I kept coming up with random things I like and how those things change on a daily basis. Then I realized that the factor determining my personal style is that it’s dynamic – never static. I like what I like based on my mood, how I feel about myself at the moment. Heck, even the weather affects my fashion choices.

And I kind of like that. You can say my style is completely undefined, but I think you’d be mistaken. I don’t change it based on what’s in for the season (red eye liner, Mary Kate Olsen’s last headwear debacle, neon anything, um, need I say more?), although sometimes I do give into crazy trends just ‘cause (Dear Legs, I’m really sorry for abusing you with those mid-calf leggings). More than anything, though, I’ve noticed that I use my style to bring out specific facets of my personality. Some days I just really like to vamp it up to achieve just the right amount of trampiness. You know, big, wild hair (the higher the hair, the closer to God, right J?), ridiculously impractical heels, borderline drag queen eye makeup, hoops resembling bracelets, and the strategic mysterious smirk. Nothing offensively whorish or tacky (although I have been known to sport the huge leopard print earrings, but that was more for the kitsch/intentional bowling alley queen effect), but just enough to say ‘I’m not taking myself incredibly seriously right now.’

As much as I love the trash-tastic look, I have also been to know to completely veer off and strive to look like a completely Charlotte-esque WASP princess. Or WASC, I guess, since I’m Catholic. But whatev, details, details. I have the pearls, preppy attire, long straight hair, tortoise shell headband, and, when I decide to call it forth, the posture. Whenever I really start dreaming of living on the East Coast, I try to prove I belong there with my wardrobe. (I love you, Chicago, I do! But I need a change of scenery! I long to leave the Midwest, just for a little bit! You understand, right? Right?)

Then, completely diverging from either of these identities, I play up my earthy-girl side with something I like to call “showered hippie.” This is when I really feel like strolling to the farmer’s market and walking barefoot in the grass and doing yoga. I mean, I do these things sometimes, but it’s a little hard to commit fully when it snows half the year here, I don’t have much of an attention span to calm down for a full hour unless I’m asleep, and I can’t even imagine what kinds of gross things are all over the ground in the Big City. Anyway, when this mood strikes me, it’s obvious to everyone who knows me. I let my hair air dry (and hairbrush? What’s that?), refuse to wear socks, dig out my flowy boho shirts and dresses, throw one of my million headscarves on, and walk in the sunshine, smiling at life like I just left Woodstock. The jury is still out on whether I look serene or sky-high when I’m in this look-at-me-I-am-so-at-peace-with-life state.

While I do love showing off the multiple style personalities, and I think that the main thing defining my style is its ever-changing nature, there is one other thing that sets it apart. No matter what I’m wearing, I probably am only wearing it because I want to. Not because you think it looks cute or because you said the Express blue zebra dress with long sleeves makes me look like a stripper (love you, T, but I can SO rock the animal prints –AND make them look classy!) I will also sport green eye shadow without looking like a scary 80s flashback, because it can be done if you play around with it. You can tell me what you like, but in the end, I probably will wear my favorite dress or a necklace that could double as a weapon. (By all means, though, if I try on a jumpsuit or something equally horrific that makes me look like I’m auditioning for an Aretha Franklin autobiographical film, go ahead and tell me.) I take risks based on what I like, not really because Vogue told me that this was THE trend to try this month. Although, I must say, I love entirely editorial and impractical clothing – at least in theory. I will wear the men’s wear vest because I think I can throw on a little extra black liner and some major (I idolize the Posh) heels and work the edgy girl look. I will not wear high-waisted pants because my legs are long enough and my torso plenty short, thanks. And half the time, no matter what style I’m sporting, I will probably be wearing my silver cuff that reminds me of Wonder Woman. Just because I really like it. And that is definition enough personal style enough for me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Be Nice!

As little kids, we're taught to be kind to those we meet. Share what you have. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. See the good in everyone. We hear these things over and over, but I have this theory that they only sink in so far. Sure, we're (well, most of us) are nice to others, but what about being nice to ourselves? We may have learned to take care of ourselves on the outside (brush your hair, wear matching socks, take occasional showers-- kidding!), but the niceties we share with others aren't always extended to ourselves. We can kill others with kindness, but too often those little voices in our heads say some truly vicious things. Would you tell your best friend, "Wow, you really suck at your job"? Or would you scoff at your sister, saying, "Omg, you cannot wear that until you lose like 50 pounds"? The answer for most of us (hopefully) is a resounding NO, but somehow we berate ourselves like this, nearly on a daily basis.
Well, "no more!" I say. Or at least I'm really, really, really, REALLY going to try. I have decided that If I'm going to care enough about other people's feelings to stay on the sunny side, I'm going to do the same for myself. I'm going to try to shut out the comments that I keep allowing to creep up. I'm going to make a conscious effort to shut down seemingly uncontrollable subconscious voices that throw at least one barb at me every day. Whenever that inner bully starts picking on me, I am going to fight back and lob a compliment at her. I will tell myself one thing I really like about being me or something I'm really proud of doing for the day. I am going to stand up to myself, because sometimes I can be a real bitch.
I actually started this process a couple days ago, on Saturday to be specific. I decided that May 17th, 2008 was going to be Day 1 of the my journey to becoming less of a self-tormentor and more of a positive role model for myself. I guess this is Day 4, and so far, so good. I'm keeping a journal for 30 days (I desperately want to hold myself accountable in this!) to track all the good things that happen and that I feel during the day. (I even bought one of those old school composition books you get in like 3rd grade to practice cursive in.) I may have negative experiences but I'm working on flipping any of those around too. Instead of "I got a run in this morning, but I was late for work," I'm simply going to change it to, "I was a little late, but I was so proud of hauling myself out of bed that it was OK today!" I am NOT justifying my actions when I screw up, but once I put things in the past, I'm going to try to put a positive spin on them.
So, in keeping with the being nice theme, I am going to toot my own horn a little, and really put this being nice thing into practice. First off, I got up and went running this morning before work and before my roommates had even thought about getting up. I used to do this in college but then I didn't have class until 10am, didn't have to ride a train to get there, and was able to go to lecture a little gross and wearing sweats. Plus, I like totally fell out of the "morning person" groove so I'm finally getting back to that! I even did my hair (sort of).
Anyway, the rest of today went well because I keep encouraging myself. I got into work a few minutes late (however, our office is pretty relaxed about time as long as you get your stuff done), but I was cranking out the work like I haven't done in a while and I got a lot accomplished. I was even able to take a break and chat with the girls I work with quite a bit, which is great because I like the girls I work with a lot. They all are about two or three years older than me, but we all get along really well and it's a fun department (Go writers!)
After work, I got off at a train stop further from my house so I could walk (it was sunny!) and because the man sitting next to me was just a liiiiitttttllllleee too close. Killed two birds with one stone. Anyway, it was so nice to explore that neighborhood a little more, and I found some great stores (True Religion? BCBG? MAC? Yes! I love my part of town!) that I will be frequenting more and more as I started running more, ha (time to kick my butt back into shape!). OH, and I finished Ayn Rand's Anthem when I grabbed coffee. I actually read it in HS, but I wanted to do it again because I couldn't remember it that well and now I can say I read all of her novels within a year -- and by choice, haha. I know that might sound silly, but um, I think Atlas Shrugged could be used as a weapon and I had to take major breaks with lighter reading between her novels. So that wasn't ALL I read this year or anything. (Sidenote: In case you haven't picked up on it, I LOVE reading -- I fell asleep with books instead of cuddly stuffed animals when I was little. Foreshadowing of what was to come, I'm sure.)
OK, and last thing because this is just one huge jumble of things I was happy I did today (not coherent by a long shot). I cooked! I made some vegan chili and it was SO good. I will admit... it came from a box... and cans of kidney beans and diced tomatoes...BUT i made it on the stove! That's huge for me!! Trust me, the microwave and I are pretty much married, so I feel like it was some sort of kitchen appliance adultery... But I actually cooked! And now I have lunch for tomorrow that does not consist solely of bagged lettuce, canned black beans, and salsa! And I didn't burn anything or cause any explosions!!
And now I'm going to bed! And remember to be nice (to yourself)!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Homeward Bound...

There's always something about coming home that simultaneously puts me at ease and stresses me out to the MAX. Now that I'm an "adult," living completely on my own (and more than 45 minutes away from my parents), there are little comforts that going home brings -- like toting home a suitcase full of laundry to wash sans the roll of quarters, not freaking out about every dollar I spend, and always having someone to talk to and/or hug. However, some of those same things put me on edge as well --having my dad tell me I'm not washing my socks properly and having my mom ask me what I'm doing every second of the day. However, my sister and I know that our parents just miss us so we complain about it together, knowing that there are worse things than having our parents love us a little too much.

This weekend I came home for Mother's Day and because I hadn't been home since St. Patty's Day/my old a cappella group's concert weekend. I actually arrived in Ann Arbor late Thursday night so I just stayed with one of my best friends from my sorority and we went out with another friend I sang with. We had a "total undergrad night" (my friends just liked saying that because they graduated two weeks ago) and hit the Jug and even Rick's (always a mistake, but sometimes a really fun one). Even though last night was majorly silly (I really don't have a better word and I would use 'ridic' but....well I just can't and take myself seriously haha) and I maybe drank too much, it was such a GOOD night. I was really happy being back and I only saw the people I really wanted to see, the people who actually still care about being friends after graduation. I'm not being cynical or bitter here, I think it's totally natural to drift from people after you leave the protective college bubble. However, I really do appreciate the people who wanted to see me when they heard I was coming back. It meant a lot, especially because some of those people I still keep in touch with are the ones I never expected to stay close to. More on that some other time though. Anyway, it was so great that I felt good being back, because last time I was there, I felt really panicked about being back and had such mixed feelings about returning to the old college stomping grounds. This time though, I was all excitement and no worries. A wonderful sign that I'm at a good place, even if I'm still not exactly sure what I'm doing with my life.

OK, so that was Ann Arbor. Here I start talking about home and I haven't even gotten to it yet! I do consider Ann Arbor a home of sorts, BUT that was not the original intention of this post. Ann Arbor was relaxing and great, and then this morning Em (the little, yet taller than me, sis) came from East Lansing to pick me up. On a side note, I absolutely adore my sister. She's my best friend in the world, which came as a surprise to me when I realized it during college since we were never BFFs while both living at home. Now, I love her to death and would do anything for her, as I know she would do for me. I do have unrelated-to-me best friends, but my sister is on an entirely different plane. She wins, haha. There's so much I would love to say about her because she is pretty much the greatest person ever. But, again, I'll probably write more on that later. (By the way, if you haven't noticed, I really like tangents. Or they just find their way into my conversations/writing. Whatev. You'll learn)

Right, so. My sister and I drove home and had the whole house to ourselves since Mom and Dad were working. However, I had to work as well (I was telecommuting) so it wasn't a completely relaxing day, especially since we had all of these rewrites and I feel like I can never do anything totally right or efficiently when I work remotely. Oh well, I got to stay in my sweats and work from Panera half the day, so I'll deal with the stress. We came home for the day right as my parents got back from their walk, so we chatted for a few before my dad had to go to a meeting and my mom started planning something for all of us to do for the night (even though alllll I wanted to do was sleep/write). We didn't do anything, but still I felt like we had to had to talk every second and act really interested about every single thing my parents had to say about running into so-and-so at the office or about whats-her-face and the newest country club mom "scandal." I love talking and I usually have lots of energy but.... there comes a time when I can't fake it. Plus, sometimes when I come home I just want to veg out and relax. I think my parents try to cram months of not seeing me into a few hours of conversation when I'm at the house. I'm slooooowwwllllyyy learning that I had better not really make any plans when I'm home or anticipate getting much work done when I come back to GB because my parents will undoubtedly want to spend every second with Em and I and they do not understand the concept of "alone time." Eeesh. I need to work on that because it has caused some major issues with me, I'm sure. We are by no means dysfunctional -- we probably seem like the annoyingly perfect atomic family, to be honest -- but sometimes I think we are a bit too close and I don't feel like I've ever had a ton of personal space or privacy. Love my parents, but sometimes they need to lay off. Yet, again, more on that later. I guarantee it.
It's getting late, and I think I may have lost my train of thought on this one, but the point is that home is still a weird place for me as I'm trying to grow up. Good for hugs and free food, bad for personal space and having any time to myself. I'll figure it out, eventually.