Halloween, leggings, participation, and presence

I promise, all of those random things in the post title are (somewhat) related. Let’s see if I can connect the dots… 🙂

As most if not all of you know, I am always about 1 week behind in reading blog posts from my favorites (life… sigh…). Which means that this weekend I was reading about Halloween and what people were doing. It got me thinking about how I have always hated Halloween – specifically, the dressing up part. I was never the kid who loved coming up with costumes. I never had any ideas, and was perfectly happy with those awful plastic masks and costumes that made you sweat the moment you put them on. (Anyone else remember those??) No thought or creativity required.

It’s not just a lack of creativity, though, that makes me dislike Halloween. It’s the idea of creating the “best” costume in order to stand out in some way. I have always hated being the center of attention – or, really, attracting any attention at all. I am content to blend into the background, to rarely appear in photos. I never wanted to have everyone’s eyes on me, and so I have spent a lot of my life figuring out how to blend in and disappear.

This has extended to my adult life, too. I am uncomfortable in bright colors or patterns (hm, trying to think if I own anything with a pattern other than, well, a stripe… or a plaid flannel shirt… ). I’m really uncomfortable in clothing that is tight, or sparkly, or that draws attention to me in any way.

Which is one of the reasons I loved lockdown with every fiber of my being. If you want to essentially disappear, there is no better way to do so than to work remotely. For the first time in my working life – other than the brief, glorious period when I wore scrubs to work every day (oh, how I miss scrubs…) – I was able to wear exactly what I wanted. Leggings. Yoga pants. Comfortable sweaters and tops. I was still presentable but I was so much more comfortable.

It’s helped me be so much more interactive and participatory in meetings. When I’m not worried about what I look like, and when I don’t have all the eyes in a room on me, I am much better at speaking up and sharing my perspective. I don’t do it often, of course – that would be completely unlike me. For one of the first times in my life, I feel like a full participant in some of these meetings rather than an observer.

I feel like the last almost two (good grief) years have helped me be more present in my professional life. To participate more, interact more with my colleagues, and honestly, get more done. Yes, things were slow with the pandemic. Yes, teaching online had its moments. But there were good things, too.

The challenge now is, how do I maintain this as things open back up? I don’t know what we’ll be doing going forward – although I do teach in person and that will continue. I am planning to push pretty hard that we keep a virtual option for all meetings, to allow those with health and other challenges to participate. I’m hopeful but also know there is a lot of support for being back in person all the time.

What I do know, though, is that I am no longer going to dress for others. Just for me. I feel like I’m finally recognizing who I am, after too many years of trying to keep up, trying to measure up to others’ expectations or standards. It feels good.

Oscar Wilde - Be Yourself Everyone Else is Already Taken" Canvas Print by  AlanPun | Redbubble

8 thoughts on “Halloween, leggings, participation, and presence

  1. Glad to hear your work from home experience helped you learn who you want to be! You totally do the right thing with pushing for virtual meetings – there are people out there – with health issues or people like myself, with uncertainty whether I’m high risk or not – who aren’t comfortable with real meetings. I met a friend in Cork on Saturday and had to do it inside a hotel cafeteria. It was a decent environment, large, airy etc but I felt like I was playing with death.
    I can so relate to not wanting to be in the centre of attention – believe it or not when I choose to put myself singing on YouTube! But in reality, I like to stay in the background, and only show myself when I feel comfortable doing so.

    1. My perspective is much the same as yours, Susanne. For some, virtual meetings are just a better option. And, in cases where there are health risks, I think it’s incumbent on the organization / company to offer them as an option. The other important thing is that leadership shouldn’t view those who choose to connect virtually as “less than” for doing so. It’s that persistent belief that everyone needs to approach work and interactions in the same way – and it’s usually the “extraverted” way that’s viewed as the “normal” one. Which, of course, means that introverts such as you and I are on the outside.

      I’m impressed that you are able to put yourself out there with your music! I wonder if it’s like what I do when teaching – it’s not natural, but I view it almost as a performance. It does exhaust me, though, particularly when I teach multiple classes in one day. (Spring will be… interesting. Teaching one day / week with a 3-hour class and a 1.5 hour class…)

      1. It’s very interesting. I’m more comfortable singing than speaking on video. I don’t know why! Maybe I get into another “mode” when I make music. When I record myself for my teachers on Artistworks, I always write my comments in the description field instead of recording them. Mostly because I’m much better at expressing myself in written form, but also because I feel so weird and uncomfortable talking to a camera. On Zoom, at least you see other people but it feels very awkward to speak only to a camera.
        I actually don’t see myself as an introvert. I’m very social usually – although I want to choose when, and how, to be social. If I felt it was safe to socialise now I would, but the Covid spread is massive here so I consider Zoom being my best friend. 🙂 I want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

        If leadership view people who prefer to connect to meetings virtually as “less than”, they should be ashamed of themselves.

        1. I am much more comfortable writing vs. speaking, too. I worry about getting my words jumbled, or inadvertently insulting someone. I have an annoying habit of saying “Does that make sense?” after I discuss a complex concept with my students, too – reflecting my insecurity about communicating via the spoken word! Interesting, though, that this does not typically happen when I am presenting on something that I know very well. Anyway! I tend to write comments in Zoom / whatever virtual meeting space I’m using instead of speaking up.

          Ah, interesting that you are a social-but-on-your-terms person. I like that balance – and almost wish I could move in that direction. However, at this point, I think my hermit-like tendencies are pretty set! That said, when I have something I want to do I will do it. But… on the other hand, I tend to spend a lot of time second-guessing social activities that I did not set up but did commit to.

          I got good news yesterday – that our Dean is most likely going to recommend online-only meetings for our committees again for the spring. It just works better for so many people. And, many of us requested that even after things subside (please… let them subside… ) we make hybrid meetings the norm, and normalize attending online vs. showing preference to those at the meeting in person. Fingers crossed that comes to pass!

  2. COVID has been so, so hard…but there have also been some major silver linings or lessons we’ve all learned that might not have been forthcoming without a global pandemic.

    A huge one has been the benefits of flexibility when it comes to working from home – in many cases this has been a huge advantage and I hope many of the “forced” modifications of the pandemic that are net positive continue on moving forward.

    I’ve been working from home for over a decade and while I understand for some people this has been a major challenge (certain types of work, extroverts), I love that so many people have gotten a taste of this flexible lifestyle!!

    1. I completely agree. I’ve had more or less flexible work requirements for years, and have always known that I work better at home, in my own space. I’m very much a hermit – and, I know that if I go in the office I won’t be as comfortable (discomfort = not able to concentrate), I’ll be cold (freezing = not able to concentrate), distracted by noise, and annoyed with my (admittedly brief and it’s on a bus so I shouldn’t even complain) commute. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we maintain our flexible approach into the spring. From what I hear, there are only 1-2 people who want all in-person interactions, and I hope they don’t prevail over the majority, who at least want a virtual option.

      I do have to teach in person, so that will come back in the spring, but I can deal with one day/week. I hope. 🙂

  3. I feel like I’ve just had an epiphany with this post because I was pretty much stagnating at my job before the pandemic, and now I’m in an entirely different role with much more responsibility. And I think I was able to flourish better and ask for more responsibility in a work-from-home setting where most conversations took place over Zoom (and in the beginning, most of us didn’t have our cameras on, so I didn’t have to worry about being “on camera”). I think that helped me get out of my head a bit. Hmmm… something I will have to think more about!

    I’m glad there have been aspects of the past two-ish years that have been useful to you, as I feel the same way. I feel like my mental health is so much better, not working in an office. Offices are loud and bright and uncomfortable, and I work so much better at home.

    1. Oh, Stephany, it makes me so happy to read this and know that I am not the only one who experienced this kind of revelation. I know, from reading your blog, just how far you have come personally and professionally in the last 2 years. Experiencing success at work is so important when work is such a big part of our lives (not getting into the “overwork” argument right now…). Getting that positive feedback and knowing they realize your value to the company is SO rewarding!

      Totally, totally agree about not having the camera on. I do turn mine on when I am speaking or presenting, of course, but I am uncomfortable the entire time and usually cannot wait to go off camera. (Truth: I look at my calendar in the morning to see how many meetings I have to attend, vs. be an active participant and / or lead… this week looks particularly heavy on the “active and / or lead” side, sigh.) It’s exhausting to always be “on”.

      And this is the truth: “Offices are loud and bright and uncomfortable, and I work so much better at home.” YES. <3

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