Archives for posts with tag: Personal Growth

It’s finally over! I’m free! I don’t have to worry about going through my entire wardrobe anymore, because It’s. Just. DONE.

So. What do I do now?

I guess, the obvious answer would be: just wear your clothes! But this challenge has really changed the way I think about dressing every day. I’m far more aware of how many articles of clothing I own. I’m aware of how often I wear each piece. I’m SO aware of how I’m presenting myself, how I feel, how I look in every outfit I now put together. I want to give each piece of clothing a fair shake. I want to represent every article in my closet regularly.

BUT.

I also really want to get back to my daily “uniform” of jeans and tees, paired with a fuzzy, worn cardigan (my husband calls it my “crazy cat lady sweater.” I adore it). So, I suppose that one of things that I’ve learned from this challenge is that I’m still working on my personal definition of “minimalism” and what it means to me to only own what I need.

Some other lessons I’ve taken away from the last 38 days/outfits:

  1. I feel so guilty for all of the superfluous things I own. I whittled my wardrobe down from 38 tops to 23 (I actually got down to 21 of my original tops, then bought two new tees, after I had to get rid of so many of mine–just a plain white one and a green one), and from 7 bottoms to 6 (again, I gave up halfway through and replaced four pairs of old pants with new jeans). And I could still do more! I don’t even know if I’ll end up wearing all of those regularly! And, while we’re at it, what about all of my other stuff? Bookshelves, and drawers, and cabinets full of, well, stuff. I don’t need this stuff. My kids don’t need this stuff. Is it making my life better? Or worse? Am I being too nostalgic? Or am I heartless? Or am I just overthinking it? Or, or, or . . .
  2. Even while carrying around all of this extra guilt, I still couldn’t bring myself to actually eliminate all of the clothes I probably should have. Instead, I’ve decided to create a “Time Out Drawer.” Those pieces of clothing that I just couldn’t quite part with have been placed in an empty drawer in my bedroom. If, after a month or two, I don’t find myself looking for or missing that piece, I think I’ll finally be able to just say goodbye and cut the chord. (At least, I hope I’ll be able to.)
  3. It was kind of nice not having to think about my clothes for so long. for the last 40 days, I had a list. I had a plan. There was no forethought needed. Dressing myself again for the last week has proven to me that I still don’t quite know what the hell I’m doing, style-wise.
  4. I’m totally okay with duplicates. The new green tee I bought is amazing. I seriously wish I had bought it in every color. It’s soft, flattering, washable (oh, so necessary!), and has some nice details with contrast stitching that give it just a tiny little something extra. And I discovered that I don’t really care if I’m “caught” wearing the same thing over and over again. Not if I feel good in it.
  5. I can relax. People don’t really pay that much attention. Going back to my point above, I think that wearing the same shirt (in different colors) every day isn’t really the crime against fashion I’ve always feared it was. Because nobody really notices. I stopped myself from wearing one of my favorite shirts to my book club a couple of weeks ago because “I wore it last time!” It took me forever to realize that 1) It had been six weeks. Nobody but me knew what the hell I was wearing! 2) I certainly didn’t remember what any of my girlfriends had worn, so there was no way they were keeping tabs on my outfits, and 3) Even if one of us DID notice a repeat outfit, so what? What kind of horrible thing are we expecting to happen? Are we going to be punished? Mocked? Shunned? Yeah, I think not.

Any, now for what you really want: the clothes!

Day 31

Day 31: Goodwill for the win! Bought both the top and the wide leg jeans at the local Goodwill. The shirt is SO soft. And I will punch my mother for a good pair of high waisted, wide legged jeans.

Day 32

Day 32: Weirdly enough, I felt like I was wearing lingerie all day in this outfit. The leggings were bothering me, and I had to keep hiking them up to get the crotch back up to starting positions. The top is not even close to the most revealing thing I own, but I felt just uncomfortably exposed in it. They both went to the yard sale pile!

Day 33

Day 33: Do you know that this is my ONLY button-down shirt? And do you know that I bought it for easy breast-feeding access? Six years ago! But, hey, if I’m only going to have one, I’d better have a wicked CUTE one, right? Keep.

Day 34

Day 34: I wore this outfit to go see a concert with my husband. When I walked up, the doorman looked at me, looked at my top, then said, “You know about your shirt, right?” “You mean, that it’s see-through? Yeah. I’m aware.” Even with all of my goodies on display, though, I still felt comfortable in this outfit. I thought I was so sexy! And, all I have to do is add an undershirt, and I’ll go from concert hall to conference room. So versatile!

Day 35

Day 35: This top is breaking my heart, you guys. The embroidery is So. Freaking. Cute. But it’s also So. FUCKING. Itchy! I was wearing an undershirt, and it STILL poked my chest raw all day! It’s like they sewed those feathers on with fishing line! Seriously, dude. BUT. I really love this shirt. I love the style. (But now that I’m looking at this picture, is it too long on me?) So, I put this one in the Time Out Drawer. I’ll see if I feel like trying it out again in a few weeks.

Day 36

Day 36: Okay, so I like this top. But it’s double layered polyester. So I don’t love it. The high neck makes me sweat. But, it’s kind of romantic and flowy. So, Time Out Drawer. We’ll see how I feel about it after a bit.

Day 37

Day 37: Cozy. Soft. Yes, I already have a pale blue racer back tank top. BUT I don’t already have one that is this light and cool. Perfect for blazing summer days. Keep! (Also, check out my ass. Oohlala!)

Day 38

Day 38: The final day of the challenge! And I did NOT end with a bang. The shimmers in this top give it a great detail that elevates it from a standard long sleeved tee. But the shiny parts of the shirt were seriously sewn in tinsel. Like, tinsel. Like, pulled off of somebody’s Christmas tree. (To be fair, I bought this shirt to wear to a Christmas party. But I didn’t realize that I’d be decorated like the damn tree!) C’mon, clothing manufacturers! Doesn’t anybody stop at some point in the process and say, “Hey, you know what feels completely fucking HORRIBLE against a person’s skin? Tinsel. Maybe, I don’t know, we should switch to like cotton or something? Guys? What do you think? Guys?” Gone.

There you have it! All of my clothes! Are you as sick of them as I am? Yeah, thought so.

But, if you’re not, check out the previous posts in this series!

Wardrobe Challenge–The First 10 Days

Wardrobe Challenge–Days 11-20

Wardrobe Challenge–Days 21-30

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I am halfway through my wardrobe challenge! And, I have to admit, I’m getting kind of sick of my own clothes. I am honestly finding it hard to motivate myself to Keep. Wearing. Everything. It’s hard to put on that nice blouse, when all I want to do is return to my regular tees. It’s hard to wear a sweater on a day when I would usually just put on my yoga clothes and call it good. Getting out of my own comfort zone has been truly challenging. Which is something I wouldn’t have predicted prior to this challenge. But, I only have 18 more outfits to wear before I’m done, so I’m going to keep doing this! And, again, I continue to learn things about myself from this challenge:

  1. I didn’t know that I didn’t know. Prior to wearing every piece of clothing that I own, I felt pretty confident that I “knew” my style. That I knew what made me look good, and what made me feel good. But doing this challenge revealed that I really didn’t know! I am much more in tune to what looks flattering on me, what makes me feel good, and what I really want to wear and present to the world after this whole process.
  2. I couldn’t take it anymore. My jeans seriously sucked. So, right after outfit 11 (which I didn’t even get a picture of, because it looked just sad!) I told my husband that I was fed up. I bought four new pairs of pants. I threw away four pairs of my old pants, and I am so, SO happy that I did! I feel sexy in these new pants, and confident. It’s a good feeling.
  3. My attitude towards my clothes is the single most important thing. I’ve discovered that the key to cutting down on my clothing clutter is to listen to my own feelings regarding my clothing. I’ve learned that when I feel discouraged, or disappointed, or unhappy with my clothing, then it’s just not worth keeping it around. When I look at my randomized list of outfits, and I find myself feeling bummed about having to wear something, then I know that it’s time to let that article of clothing go. Even if it’s something that I have been complimented on. If I’m constantly tugging at it, or fidgeting, or just feeling strange about, then it needs to go. Period.
  4. I own too much stuff. When I first told my friends about this challenge, I mentioned that I had pared down my wardrobe to 38 shirts. My girlfriends couldn’t believe it. “Thirty-eight shirts? Thirty-eight??” I had been so proud of my wardrobe reduction up until that moment. I mean, doesn’t everyone have a closet so packed and disorganized that Lorelei Gilmore would shed a tear of pride? The answer, of course, is no. And nobody needs a closet like that, either (I mean, in seven seasons Lorelei and Rory never actually repeat an outfit. Real human beings just don’t need that much fabric in their lives!). Prior to starting this, I thought getting down to 25 tops would be impossible. Now, I can see it happening. Easily. Hell, I could probably do more! But, the really big news about this realization is that I’ve started turning my now-discerning eye to the rest of my house. How much stuff do I really, truly, genuinely need? How much do I have? How much do I use? How can I bridge the mathematical divides between my answers to those questions? All of this is to say that you should all come to my yard sales this spring! They’ll be LOADED!

Day 11: I didn’t get a picture of this outfit. But it wasn’t good. Old jeans, completely ripped through on the hem. A plain white t-shirt so old and threadbare you could see through it. (Seriously, girlfriends, why did you guys just let me walk around with all my business on display for so long?? Couldn’t one of you have mentioned that you could see everything through my crummy old shirts??) They both went in the trash. I wouldn’t want to donate things that old and beaten up.

 

Day 11

Day 12: My grey Goodwill pants continue to rock it (and my pink socks are adorable–you know they are!). But I have realized that I actually own THREE different teal blue, racer back tank tops. This one is by far the least flattering. Boi, bye!

Day 12

Day 13: Oh, the joys of new jeans! These are Tommy Hilfiger “Pull-On Skinny Jeans.” Do you know what that means? It means they are basically fancy elastic waist pants! No zippers or buttons, but still made out of denim. I’m in love. They’re a *touch* too long, but I adore them with a little cuff at the bottom, so I don’t think I’m going to even hem them. So cute. Keep.

Day 13

Day 14: Okay, this sweater has me confused. It’s warm, and I really like the styling on the back, but I’m just not sure I feel super confident in it. The pants are flat out far too tight. They’re already gone (replaced by much better things!), but I just can’t decide if I want to keep this sweater. I get compliments on it, but I dunno. Can you guys give me some feedback? What should I do?

Day 14

Day 15: Behold. My new William Rast jeans. Justin Timberlake designs these jeans, and I told my husband that they remind me of what I imagine snuggling with JT might feel like: soft, buttery, flexible, yet completely supportive, and so good for my ass. They’re total “touch me” pants. Even my rough-around-the-edges husband couldn’t stop–ahem–rubbing these jeans. Just paired with my old tee, they were perfection. And, yes, I am totally saying “Ooooh” to my own butt in this picture.

Day 15

Day 16: Don’t let my expression throw you off. This picture was taken at the end of a long day and I was tired. This is my favorite turtleneck, paired with my ankle length black leggings. I really like them both a lot. And these leggings are now my only “non-jean” pants. I think keeping them will add some versatility to my wardrobe. Keep!

Day 16

Day 17: Just in case anyone thought that these photos had been retouched or edited in any way, let this prove to you that they have not. Fresh out of the shower. Wet hair. Shiny, just-washed face. I’m wearing my new pants that are replacing my way too big brown “placeholder” pants. These olive green ones are cozy, but LONG. Definitely going to have to hem these suckers! And my top? I’m never getting rid of it (it says “The Maddie Lous,” and we sold them to raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital in honor of my Riley kid, Maddie. They’re baseball shirts, because her initials are MLB. I thought I was being so clever!). But I think it has to become a paint shirt. It’s just kind of meh on me. Hits me in kind of awkward places.

Day 17

Day 18: I’m sex on a stick and I know it. (This orange tank is my FAVORITE top! And I honestly probably would have never paired them with these grey pants. But, yowza.)

Day 18

Day 19: Black William Rast jeans. Also need to be hemmed, but they’re so freaking soft. And there’s a great story behind this top. I got this hoodie years ago at a store in Montreal, Quebec that specialized in small-production and sample sales from tiny, independent designers. This was a runway sample. The only one like it in the world. It’s long, warm, has a hood AND pockets. I’m never getting rid of it. But I had to pull it up in the back because you guys just need to experience my booty in these new jeans. I mean. Come on.

Day 19

Day 20: Further proof that absolutely NOTHING has been Photoshopped! I took this picture this morning, unshowered, greasy, running out the door to drop my daughter off at preschool. I threw on this beautiful pink hat that my closest neighbor (and closest friend) made for me. Fashionable, AND saved the world from experiencing the horrors of my bed-head. I’m also so happy that I finally found another t-shirt in my closet that doesn’t have stains!

What does everybody think? Did I do a good job picking out my new jeans? Have I gotten rid of something that is just too cute to bear? What should I do with that pale gold sweater?? Let me know! (Seriously. Help a sister out!)

What’s my wardrobe challenge? Check it out here: Dressing Like Cher

Missed my first ten days? Here’s the link!

It’s March 9th. On April 9th, I will run my very first half marathon. That is, I hope I will run my very first half marathon. I know that (Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise) I will cross the Start Line, and I know I will cross the Finish Line. What happens in between is anyone’s guess.

It’s been two months since I began training for this race. In that time, I’ve learned many things, and I’m struggling with many more. At this critical juncture, I think it’s time to record a few of those lessons here.

  1. The Stats Don’t Really Matter. In many ways, training for this half marathon has reminded me of writing my dissertation for my PhD. One of the things you learn pretty quickly, is that the end result is not actually as critical as the process itself. My committee barely glanced at my finished dissertation (and I certainly never gave it a second thought once it was completed). They didn’t judge my readiness for my PhD through the finished 264 pages. They determined my abilities based on the four years prior. The conferences I attended. The countless drafts I submitted. The many (many!) rabbit holes I pursued to no real avail. I’m slowly coming to understand that this half marathon will be the same way. How fast I’m able to finish. Whether or not I’ll have to walk a few miles. Where I place in the pack. How well I’m able to pace myself. Only other runners will be interested in those details. I will be interested in those details. Everybody else will just care that I finish. My dissertation is not worthy of publication. But that doesn’t matter. I have my PhD. That’s the accomplishment. Everything else is just statistics. (You think anyone cared when this guy finished the Boston Marathon dead last, and in 20 hours? Hell no! He finished the Boston Marathon. End of story.)
  2. I’m Constantly Disappointing Myself. Running is an almost entirely self-motivated sport. There’s no team. No coach. No fans in the bleachers. It’s you. It’s your head. Your thoughts. Maybe some music. A road. The air. Therefore, it’s not surprising that runners are considered something of a psychological mystery. Because of the release of endorphins that comes with any physical activity, running eventually feels good, but the good feelings—the high—are very temporary and only last a short time. Getting your brain to release that dopamine is a long process. And a painful one. And it’s all on you. The runner has to be willing to undergo hours of self-inflicted torture for twenty minutes of satisfaction. And research has shown that runners often self-identify as intelligent, motivated, excited by challenges and risks, and highly critical (Who has two thumbs and fits all those personality traits to a T? This girl!). The majority of my training these last few months, therefore, has involved me analyzing, assessing, and finding fault with every aspect of my running. I slept in and missed my cross training session. I had to walk after that last hill. I couldn’t make the distance I wanted to. I didn’t eat right before a run, and was stymied by horrible cramps. My running is all on me, so when something goes wrong (and it frequently does) I have no one else to blame. So I blame me. A lot.
  3. I’m Constantly Impressed with Myself. All that being said, my training is truly paying off. I’m improving. Quite a lot. Every day when I go out for a run, I can feel how much stronger I’ve become in just two months. How my stride has changed. How my breathing has slowed. How my pace has increased. That’s perhaps the best and most surprising part of this process: the improvement in my pace. I didn’t even care about pace when I began training. I wanted the distance. I wanted to be able to say that I can run—run!!—13 whole miles. I never thought I would get faster in the meantime, but I have. When I first started back into running after a nearly 4-year hiatus, I was thrilled when I completed my first outside mile in 11:57, three seconds faster than I could run on the treadmill. Today, a 12-minute mile would feel like crawling for me. The last three times I’ve run my routine “maintenance” miles, I’ve completed them in an average of 9:30 per mile (some splits faster, some slower, but pretty consistent for a newbie). I regularly can now look down at my watch, and amaze myself with a PR that I never seem to be anticipating. I realized just last week that I’ll likely run this race as a “middle of the pack” runner. That makes me proud. I’m only 4’11”. I have 25” inseam. I’m pear shaped. But I’m moving. I’m not breaking any records, but I’m taking a body that falls solidly on the left side of the bell curve and pushing its capabilities right into the center. That’s kind of awesome. Kind of really awesome.
  4. I’m Not Doing this Alone. Running is solitary. Being a runner isn’t. Being a runner who is also a stay-at-home-parent of two small children with a spouse who works 70 hours a week requires a community. Though I try to get my runs finished in the mornings before my husband leaves for work, often, that plan fails. Training through all of January and February, there were plenty of mornings where roads were slick, sidewalks weren’t cleared off, visibility was minimal. For me, safety always comes first. Even if that means sacrificing a run. If conditions are bad, or in any way dangerous I just won’t go out. (I hate running in the dark. Even though I live in a quiet neighborhood, I am required to run on several streets without sidewalks, and I don’t want to be running on the same street as a sleepy sanitation worker who might be reaching for his coffee instead of looking for short moms in reflective tights.) Plans don’t always work out. So I’ve needed other people. A lot. On the weekends, my husband goes into work an hour and a half late, so I can get in a long run after sunrise. During the week, my mother-in-law watches my girls for a few hours so I can slip out to the YMCA (when the weather is cold) or down to my favorite trail, and still have time for a shower. My neighbor and I exchange babysitting. I’ll watch her boys when she has a doctor’s appointment, and she gets my girls when I need to wait until the afternoon for a run. Friends have emailed me, texted me, and told me that I’m doing a great job. I’ve asked for (and received!) Facebook messages of encouragement from both runners and non-runners. People have actually walked up to me, and told me that following my updates on my running has inspired them to try running. To try walking. To try Zumba. To try. I’ve even had neighbors roll down their windows and wave and cheer as they drive past me. All of this has made my training possible. I couldn’t have made the progress I’ve made without all of you. My community.
  5. I’m Still Totally, Completely, Unbelievably, Shaking-Down-to-My-Boots Terrified. I mean, seriously. 13.1 miles?? What the hell was I thinking? What am I thinking? And it hurts. (I’m starting to have IT pain in my left knee. That shit is uncomfortable as hell!) And it’s hard. Really hard. Why am I doing this thing that’s really, really, really, ridiculously hard? For a medal? For the bragging rights? I mean, really, Rachel, why?

The truth is, I have no idea why I’m doing this. It all just seems like an extended experiment in pain tolerance most of the time. But I do know what my mantra has been (what it’s been ever since I started my PhD, actually). John F. Kennedy, when he announced to the world that America would send a man to the Moon within a decade, gave one of the most inspiring speeches in the history of American politics. And I think about that speech every time I run. Every time I realize that it’s hard. Every time I want to quit. JFK talked about the whys too. Why go to the Moon? Why explore beyond our atmosphere? Why spend the money, and risk the lives, and tap the brain power? His response:

 “We . . . do . . . [these] things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

We do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Because they are hard.

I want to do hard things. (That’s what she said.) I’d rather fail doing something difficult, something challenging, something impossible, then float along on a cloud of a million easy successes. I want to reach, and stretch, and pull all less-than-five-feet of me to the farthest distances I can, both figurative and literal. I want to do this.

And right now, at this moment, I think that I can.