Rediscovering your (16 year-old) self

I spent the summer before my junior year of high school in the wilderness of northern California, one of 6 kids volunteering to do trail maintenance. We lived in tents, made the same meals over and over (which consisted of food carried in to us on mules every other week), bathed in a stream after bears destroyed our sunshowers on the first day, and got grimier & grimier until I thought I was super tan, but it was just dirt. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, flying across the country to spend 6 weeks with a bunch of strangers, with only 2 shirts and a journal.

I had a vague sense at the end of that summer that I would go to college, maybe have a boyfriend someday, and make something of myself eventually. But it didn't really matter, the details, because I had this youthful sense that things would work out as they should, and that being outside, with 5 other like-minded weirdos, making up ridiculous songs to entertain them, and doing something physical each day was enough.

Waking up each morning in July, in a tent in my cousin's yard in New Mexico, following my impulsive escape from Austin almost 2 months ago now, I realize that I haven't felt so free since that summer I was 16 in the wilderness. I simplified my life to the point of only really seeing 5 other people in person, wore the same hastily-packed rotation of crop tops & bike shorts for a month, and I have zero idea what will come next for me (what with the global pandemic and exposure of racism & lack of sustainability in the fashion world). Not only this, but there's no one to dress for but myself when I only know 5 people and don't have to leave home to work anymore!

So, naturally this both completely terrifies and excites me all at once. And what to do when faced with this type of emotional tension colliding with style? Well, I'm leaning right in and using my 16 year-old self as inspiration for my ever-expanding pandemic style, of course....

Which Me am I?

Has your mind been wandering over the past 6 months? Have you been relating to past versions of yourself more than usual? Have you noticed a shift in yourself after turning inward, or a sense of losing something you once thought was important, but isn't anymore? When was the last time you had no idea what would happen next?

What I thought was important last year doesn't feel so important to me now. I hit a huge financial goal, traveled a LOT for work, got what I thought was a dream gig styling a celebrity for a TV show. It felt like the natural progression of things at the time, and it definitely seemed like I had arrived at "success." But in reality I was mostly just reacting and responding, taking opportunities as they came, not needing to set my sights on anything but my financial goals and my inbox.

My 16 year-old self didn't care about making money, outwardly visible success, or working all the time. And neither does my 41 year-old self now. I found it helpful to write down all the things I cared about when I was 16: expressing my individuality, being a good listener, not comparing myself to anyone else unless it was to prove how different I was (giant eyeroll), sharing my feelings openly, making art (and mix tapes, and my own customized clothing of course). I wanted so badly to get away from where I was from back then, and now that I've been all sorts of places, I realize I'm still that little weirdo from Maine. And now that all my circumstances have shifted, I am figuring out how to align my life with who I really am. It's not easy, but it feels right.

So how does one begin to explore their real-est self? For me, I didn't know it until I was there, waking up outside, feeling actually happy. I'm very attached to nature, it turns out. Being outdoors this time of year in Austin isn't really an option, and me and my 16 year-old self need to be out in the air, the woods, the sunshine, the mountains. I needed to get as far away from the mall as possible to figure out how I could continue to support and inspire my clients in this new world we're all finding ourselves in. I needed to slow to the pace of my 16 year-old self, and I somehow knew that staying in Austin all summer wasn't going to sustain me.

I am extremely lucky to have a family that was willing to take me in, give me a tent (& an air mattress, thankyouverymuch), and feed me while I figured all this shit out, and that's not lost on me. How can YOU get in touch with these personal touchstones for yourself? Start by studying yourself. Self-reflection is a deep well of juicy information, and by understanding what you like and don't like, you're going to naturally gravitate towards what feels best to you.

Still sound overwhelming? One of the questions I always ask in the Style Reflection portion of my virtual work with clients is to think of a time in your life when you felt really alive and free. For me it's being outside, obviously, but for you it may be listening to music, visiting a new place, cooking, gardening, or getting out on your bike. Once you have a sense of this, or even a glimmer, DO THAT THING. If the pandemic cramps your style, do the closest thing to it, or try something completely new. Nothing gets to the root of who we really are more than trying new things, even if you end up deciding you never ever want to do it again.

Embody that Self

Once your vision of that self you most relate to becomes clear, you can start to embody that self on the daily with your clothing choices. Wearing what feels aligned with the version of you who was alive and free can help you stay connected to what really matters to you. It's comforting to remember that free self during this time of uncertainty, and I know I'm a broken record with this stuff, but it's true! My style has been morphing into the artistic teenaged me, and I'm calling my current style "16 year-old Grandma," because it makes me laugh and it allows me to wear everything that makes me feel comfortable standing on the precipice of change once again.

Another shift I'm making (aside from wearing sneakers with tube socks again) is to align my services with my mindset. Not only have I reworked my in-person services into virtual services (which are actually more time-consuming), but I'm committed to focusing on helping you build sustainable, ethical wardrobes. I'm interested in working with people who want to dive deeper with me into the motivation behind their style, so they can really derive the full benefits of an aligned wardrobe (and embodied self). I'm offering virtual Capsule, Closet Analysis, and Sort Shop & Style services, as well as my online course, The Style Shift Workshop. I would love nothing more than to help guide you towards your most courageously free self, so you can dress to feel that way during this super challenging time, and maybe make some personal progress while the world is goes nuts all around us.

Thanks for reading and for all your support, y'all. Your responses to my last letter made me cry with gratitude, and I'm making a personal commitment to send you one of these a month, so stay tuned...