Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Finding Identity in Purpose: I'm a Writer, But I'm Also...

I've had to thoroughly clean the interior of my computer and phone multiple times due to the seemingly unstoppable build-up of miscellaneous photos or screenshots that I keep for various reasons, none of which are necessarily pressing enough to qualify said photographs to hold a permanent spot in my gallery. I'm a hoarder and often fall victim to the threatening nature of the thought of needing something later only to realize I DELETED IT AND CAN NEVER FIND IT AGAIN, but I have to force myself to take the plunge sometimes. Every once in a while, you have to look inside yourself and really internalize questions like "Will I ever really buy those shoes I took a screenshot of?" and "Is this screenshot of a text message conversation necessarily relevant at this point in my life?" Feel free to admire my bravery and sacrifice. I couldn't do it without my #1 enabler, the "Not Enough Storage" notification, swooping in every now and then. My overthinking notion of feeling like too much clutter somehow reflects badly on my character comes in at a close second.

Most screenshots from Instagram, text message conversations, or Tumblr often get the boot during these clean-ups (because really, it's been 9 months and I haven't bought those shoes from Instagram), but two have endured all exterminations to date. The lucky (I guess? I mean, hanging out in a folder in my desktop isn't that much of an ideal life) two are two different quotes I saw on Tumblr, and I've kept them because they seem completely paradoxical. I saved them both at different times because I agreed with both of them yet knew they somewhat contradicted each other, and I found that confusing. 

Here's #1:

Aaaand #2, by Sally Coulter: 


I acknowledge the fact that people can have different opinions--clearly Roald Dahl's ethos differs from that of Sally Coulter--and also that people are not all-knowing. Neither of these declarations about life have to be fact, necessarily. There doesn't have to be one winner. So, I guess what I'm asking is: how is it possible that people can have such different interpretations of the best way to live life?

This is something I've been struggling with for a while. I didn't just see these photos and then launch into an existential crisis--ever since I've entered "young adulthood," I've had this infatuation with making my life count. Doing something that matters. Making a real difference; finding something I really care about and believe in and pursuing it and embracing it until I start making contributions that I find meaningful. And hopefully, as I'm doing that, I'll be positively impacting others/the common good as well as fueling my own personal bliss. In this sense, Dahl's words strike an obvious chord in me, which is why I saved the photo when I came across it on Tumblr. Holding on to this "dream" of sorts has given me something to be excited about, something to be interested in, something to pursue. And when I do things that I'm proud of, it makes me feel special, like I could actually be a step closer to being that person that I want to be.

But I think where I (and I'm sure others) have gone partially blind at times is that I've become so passionate about becoming so good at one thing that I convince myself that the only path to success, to a meaningful life, is finding something you love and excelling at it.

That's one way to fulfillment, but certainly not the only way. It's an important way--I could write an entire book on the importance of pursuing your passions--but it doesn't need to be the only (or even the main) thing that adds meaning to your life.

The fact of the matter is that life is simply too big, too complicated, too layered, and too multi-faceted to be navigated with tunnel vision. Having a specific passion and dream that you're willing to strive towards and make a huge part of your life is so fun, but that doesn't mean the other things you encounter in life are smaller pieces in the puzzle. In fact, sometimes they may be larger pieces than that goal, even if that goal is your favorite piece.

At this very moment, I want to be a writer heavily involved in creative industries, particularly the fashion industry. I think about it almost every day. It's one of the main things that is driving me to want to learn more, to see more, to experience more, and to keep going in general.

Also at this moment, though, I love to dance, whether formally in a routine or casually by myself in the car or with friends. I'm realizing that I like movies a lot--I just saw Battle of the Sexes and was awestruck by how amazing the cinematography was--and I want to make documentaries and short films to explore human feeling, aesthetics, and atmospheres. I have no idea how to sew, let alone design clothes or sketch, but the idea of creating and materializing my own clothing excites me and I would love to learn.

Dogs bring me SO. MUCH. JOY. There's this chow chow in my neighborhood that I genuinely look forward to seeing and I get so excited when I see him sitting on the top of his house's hill. I also love cats very much and roughly once per week I experience a weird craving for the sensation of holding a fat cat on my stomach/chest.

I love One Direction (certain songs of theirs still give me chills, like their Teenage Dirtbag cover) and am curious about British culture. I have a sister, and my relationship with her shapes me into a girls girl. I have a mom who I love to love and watch Project Runway with and a dad who has always been enthusiastic about my dreams. I have aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, and my experiences with them and my immediate family have shaped the mold of the person I am today. Life is loving them, helping them, and caring for them.

Music colors my life: my two favorite setups are a) blaring it while driving at night and b) listening to it through headphones while falling asleep in planes/cars/hotel rooms. There's something about The Outsiders that I absolutely love and D.C. will always feel like home to me.

I want writing and fashion to give purpose to my life, but all the other people and things I love and experience and all the emotions they have roused in me contribute to the person I am, the life I'm living, and therefore, my ultimate "meaning."

We don't have to strive to make every single puzzle piece of our lives the same size and shape. If we did that, there would be no puzzle--nothing could melt together into a larger picture. We all have puzzle pieces of different sizes and shapes, and as we go through life, we'll only keep collecting more pieces as the sizes/shapes of other pieces fluctuate and vary. The beauty of life's puzzle is that you can place different levels of value on each piece, but they'll still contribute nonetheless.

Just because you aren't zeroing in on one specific goal doesn't mean your life is "lukewarm." Similarly, devoting a huge amount of time and effort to one thing, like a career, doesn't mean you aren't also "marveling many small and large passions" and "enjoying the trees." Life is unequal and disproportionate, like a collection of puzzle pieces, but that doesn't mean it can't all fit/flow together.

I'm a writer and a fashion fan, but I'm also a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a niece, a cat lover, a dog enthusiast, a resident of the country's capital, a film watcher, and a love-giver. And that's exciting.
I'm sure the process of addressing life's puzzle pieces is different for everyone, but I think realizing how cool it is that so many diverse factors contribute to our "purpose" and life experience is a pretty awesome way to start.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Alexander Wang Cured My Party Dressing Disease

The family of intimidating gang members known as "going out clothes" manages to excite me, confuse me, frustrate me and bore me all at the same time. Dressing for nighttime is a mysteriously exhilarating experience--a new, exciting feeling seems to sweep over town like magic dust when the sun goes down--and party looks from the 90's feel like they're a product or embodiment of that nighttime fluorescence; they reflect the excitement that their wearers feel, they outwardly materialize that "going out" feeling of having a whole new world ahead of you.

But for some reason, I've recently come to know parties as places where my creativity and individuality in outfitting myself (and excitement about the outfit) go to die: none of my eccentric daytime concoctions seem right, so no matter how hard I try, I end up in some tired washing machine sequence of choosing the same silhouettes and colors (neutrals) over and over again. It's kind of like one of those rigged Impossible Mario computer games that are orchestrated to ensure you die, getting your hopes up with each new try even though it knows you'll never make it to the finish.

Every time I make plans to go out at night, I feel that magic dust of dusk infiltrating my veins and fueling me with excitement, anticipation, and mischief, and the idea of picking out an outfit that not only reflects that but empowers me to thrive in that environment excites me so much. But somehow in the outfitting process, I find myself unhappy with everything I come up with, so I resort to the typical "Going Out" uniform: a black, grey, or white top or cropped top with a black, grey, or white skirt or jeans.

I understand that I can wear whatever I want and that there's no force magnetically pulling me to my less-than-stimulating "going out" clothing, but sometimes it feels like there is. Parties seem to have a dress code--"party wear"--that my brain responds to by flipping off all creativity switches in favor of... I don't know, something that satisfies the "sexy, dressed-up but not too dressed up" imperative?

Alexander Wang's "cool girl" is perhaps one of few that has continued to capture the excitement and curiosity of the fashion industry, even years after the brand's launch. The Wang girl has historically represented the highly coveted model off-duty look, the "laid-back one with loose second-day waves, wearing hardly a stitch of makeup, and oozing downtown cool wherever she goes--a runway recreation of the unassuming bombshells that loom large in the designer's real life," according to Vogue

This NYFW, ~industry peeps~ eagerly anticipated Wang's SS 2018 collection, eyes peeled and ears opened to the next layer Wang would add to his "cool girl." However, nobody was ready for how it actually went down.

Models showed up in a party bus, and without warning, hopped out onto the streets of Nolita--no runway, no seated guests--and strutted with purpose, looking like that dust of magic was pumping through their veins, fueling their confidence in going out to party. This was the girl I wanted to be. And what was she wearing?

Whatever the heck she wanted.

Of course, she enjoyed her share of typical "party wear" with slinky dresses: 

But she equally shared in the "going out" scene with other silhouettes, which didn't strip away her party girl street creed, but rather reinforced it, flowing together with the other "typical" party looks without question or hesitation.

I want to wear baggy jeans to parties without feeling the urge to balance them out with something.

And while we're at it, let me wear some cargo pants and a fanny pack that serves absolutely zero purpose for this particular event outside making me feel like my outfit is more interesting. Yes, I'll wear heels because they beautifully contrast the slouchiness of the pants and give a major middle finger to anyone who thinks that baggy cargo pants can't be in the "going out wear" gang.

And I still love my "going out" tops. Nothing's better than a top that's bright, shining, and part of the party. But I'll wear it with gray business trousers or daytime khaki layered over a leather skirt, because LOOK:

I sometimes feel like the only leg-covering options for parties are jeans. So lets throw in a midi skirt, shall we? When did those become not nighttime, not awesome compliments to an outfit, not completely ready to take on a magic dust filled night when paired with combat boots?

And sometimes I'll just make a dress out of my own pajamas or an oversized button down or sweater. Add a jacket with that too--zip it up all the way because it makes for a silhouette I like rather than keeping it open in fear of ruining my outfit with it.

I feel most confident when I'm wearing an outfit that unapologetically portrays my most true self. Sometimes, you just gotta be as honest as possible to give you that power and confidence you need to take on the night. There's something weirdly empowering in being almost too literal in your honesty. In Alexander Wang's case, wear it on your head. Walking in to a party or club (as if I even do those things anyway--zero club lights total have shined onto my face), my head piece would say "Just Wants To Love People and Laugh."

I didn't need a fashion week extravaganza to give me permission to wear whatever I want in nighttime social settings. I needed a spark of inspiration, a flash of unapologetic fun, and a hard-working mother who moonlights as a powerful bombshell (hi Candice) in cargo pants to remind me that there's no such thing as "going out clothes."

Alexander Wang SS18 photos by Yannis Vlamos / Indigital.tv via voguerunway.com
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