Today, I’m wearing gray dress slacks I put in a box destined for Goodwill just one year ago. I’m pairing these pants with a black sweater and a pair of modest ballet flats.
And a pair of multicolored tye-dye leggings.
Before I quit my job last fall, I decided I’d had it with business attire. Never again would I wear dress pants to work each day! Pencil skirts and cardigans? Go to hell. “I don’t want to work at any company that won’t let me dress in a t-shirt and flip flops!,” I said defiantly when my mom questioned why I was getting rid of my professional clothing.
Well, maybe this happened by mistake or maybe on purpose (her purpose, not mine), but many of these business pieces weren’t stuck with little blue and green tags and sold to someone who needed a cheap option or someone who wanted to be hip by buying used… Instead, the boxes and bags overflowing with khakis and cable-knit were stacked alongside my distressed denim and concert tees. Now I’m wearing these clothes again. They surely have proven useful, and saved me loads of moolah.
I’ve grown through my 20-something freak out, and I’ve learned that having a nice stable job that asks you to look polished and neat each day isn’t so bad after all. Actually, it’s quite nice not having to decide whether or not my over-sized tank, skinny jeans, and moccasins are appropriate (sometimes yes, most times no… not in the newsroom at least). I enjoy that a little bit of decision making is taken care of simply because I have to build an outfit using “business casual” attire. Black pants? Check. Simple sweater? Check. Nude flats? Check. Done and done.
However, what I HAVE learned is that even though I’m not getting the chance to “express myself” as freely as I could by wearing clothes appropriate for interacting with editors each evening (although, many of my coworkers totally dig this Bonnaroo tee-wearing boho chick and would welcome the change of pace), I’m still able to integrate bits of my personality into my fabric and accessory selections. A printed cami. Multicolored Mayan loafers. Leggings and boots and a way-too-baggy sweater. Black on black on black on black. Things that are “appropriate” but are still me. Bending inside the limits, bending to conform just a bit…
At my last office job, I think part of the reason I BROKE like I did was because I didn’t consider how to remain stable while BENDING… I looked at my situation as an ice block that I had to remain frozen inside of, rather than looking at it as something that could melt and conform to my natural shape a bit better. I could have sought out more opportunities to express myself, in areas like creative design tasks or writing for example. Or I could have accepted my professional job as it was, and expressed myself more freely in my downtime. However, I decided I was stuck and I had to break free.
Now I know, learning to bend rather than break is so important.
But even in my current job there are some days, like today, when I decide to go the very traditional route of wearing black on gray. But, I’m still me and I’m still making it a point to make the child inside happy, the one insisting she wear striped socks over argyle tights with a polka-dot sweater (I just reunited with a younger me who lives on the Oregon coast), even if the expression has to be underneath my varying shades of K. No one knows I’m wearing neon pink and yellow tye-dye leggings but me, and I’m the only person needing to be impressed sometimes 🙂
I’ve now learned how to bend and compromise in so many areas of my life. Doing so prevents many headaches and helps keep the peace. In the workplace, and in my heart.