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.