Last night, I had an epiphany. I don’t like my glasses.

Then I had to figure out why. What was it that made me not like them? What my mind kept coming back to was hearing the echo of what people said when they saw me wearing them. “Hipster glasses.”

No offense to Hipsters. And almost everyone in my class who wears glasses wears a similar style. That’s all fine. But it’s not me.

When I tried to think about what I didn’t like about Hipster, my first thought was that is seems to me that whoever is following trends is not much of a critical thinker. I dismissed that. No, I’m sure there are plenty of critically thinking, intelligent individuals who like the aesthetics of the Hipster vibe.

I came around to thinking this: Hipster styles are almost always worn ironically, with an implied smirk. Even if they dress like a hobo, it’s with a smirk. That was actually what got all this started – I had the heat down low (’cause I’m cheap that way) and kept layering on clothes, and I caught myself in the mirror and thought, “My Gosh, I look like a hobo!” with some level of delight. And then I saw my glasses, and my face fell. My Hipster glasses. My ironic glasses. But I’m not an ironic hobo, I am an honest to goodness, enthusiastic hobo. Hobo dressing makes me feel close to my poor, rural roots, and my poor, rural ancestors. It reminds me of who I really am, and who I really am is anything but urbane or sophisticated, no matter how many letters I’m in the process of putting after my name.

Curiously, this whole discovery process made me happy. You see, I went out on a limb to try these glasses, because I said to myself, “Self, you are always playing it safe, always afraid someone is going to comment on your style, and you aren’t really experimenting to find out what you like or looks good on you or you want. Be daring. Try.” And I tried. And for the first several months, I thought I liked them. I thought, “For once, a change is good. No one told me to get these. I just dared, and I did, and I look good in them!” But what I like even better about deciding I don’t like them is that maybe, possibly, perhaps, I’m starting to grow a backbone for myself.

Not leaning in to make as few ripples as possible. Just trying to be me. And as hard as they may be to find nowadays in the ocean of acrylic frames, I like gold wire spectacles. Either that, or steampunk googles, but I’m told they’re not very practical nor professional.

It’s just a drop in the bucket. There are other drops. Walking down the bike path with my cape swirling in the wind and thinking, “I enjoy this. I want to be more weird like me.” Wondering why I have so many clothes that I don’t like to wear, and realizing I got what I did because it was “acceptable” and “affordable” and not because it was “me.” I just told my Mom to keep her eye out for polo shirts on sale, and felt sad while doing so. I wear them because they are cheap, count as professional, and fit me passably well. But they do entirely nothing to reflect who I am.

I used to thinkĀ  jeans and t-shirts were my uniform, but I’m dissatisfied with that, too. In part because “jeans” doesn’t mean what it used to me. They used to be durable and rugged; not any more. T-shirts used to mean no fuss, no muss. Now if I’m wearing women’s, I’m trying to find ones where the sleeves aren’t too short and the neck isn’t too deep, and the fabric is actually comfortable. Or else I try to find men’s, but then it strains across the bust and I have to slit the sides to make room for my hips. None of any of those things reflects who I am.

Most things don’t. Sometimes I complain that it’s hard to dress as one would like when one has no money, but even that’s not really true. I mean, it is true, but even if I had a much bigger budget for clothes, what’s on the racks just makes me sad.

Title Nine and such have some really nice things, but they all say, “hip, comfortable lifestyle, I’ve got money.” Athletic wear is really “in,” and my classmates wear it to class all the time. I’d blush to go out in public with nothing on my bottom half besides tights, but it’s the new normal for them.

I’m not a polished professional, though. I see those jackets and skirts and professional pumps, and I just think, “ugh.” For me, it wouldn’t feel like I was dressing sharp. It would just feel disingenuous.

I’m really tired of wearing shapeless, unflattering clothing. But I’ve yet to find, for affordable or out of my price range, clothes that look like me.

I’m learning. A little bit, here and there.

It doesn’t always come together into a cohesive picture, though. I loathe carpeting. I like dresses and comfortable leggings make me brave enough to wear them. I miss the linen pants someone gave me once. I think that probably vests would be flattering on me. I like flat and flexible shoes. Sometimes I practice putting my hair up, and I like the old-fashioned vibe it gives me. But then I have to wear a hat, because it’s in the teens outside, and when I get to class, my hair just looks messy and knotted.

I know that even though I like delicate things – like gauzy linen, and lace, and gathers and ruffles, and piles of fine layers – I’m not delicate, and delicate things don’t look good on me. I know I love the mystery and adventure of steampunk, but I’m actually just not dark enough to wear it. When interacting with people, I tend to be all smiles and bubbly and laughing. That doesn’t really mesh with a bronze octopus around your neck.

I know a properly fitted jacket makes me feel pretty awesome, especially if it’s double-breasted. I know I’ve yet to find pair of boots that speak my language, although I really want such a pair. I know I’m not modern. I wish I could find hats that fit my small, tiny head.

You know, I don’t know much. I just feel like it’s time to get more serious about trying. Because I’ve been thinking about Hipsters and irony. Sometimes I’m not sure that they really like the way things looks. Sometimes I think it’s a self-protective irony. If you aren’t trying to look sophisticated, then it can’t sting when someone says you don’t look sophisticated.

I’m saying that because I can see myself in it. I fought my body so hard when it decided to grow up. Unable to stop it, I dressed in loose-fitting over-sized t-shirts. Back then it was defensive to the idea my body was changing. Now I think it is defensive to not feeling pretty or beautiful. If I were threatened with not looking pretty, I would say, “I know. I dress practically. I dress for comfort. I dress affordable. I’m not trying to be pretty.”

But all that really means is that I want to be, and I’m afraid I can’t attain. Better to deliberately step out of the race than to compete and fail miserably. The cowardice in me sits on the sidelines, and so my clothes are almost all things that don’t look much like me at all.

So daring to try wildly different glasses frames is a step in the right direction. Daring to reject them is better still. But it’s not enough.

I want to become more unabashedly myself. But it’s hard work and it’s uncharted territory, and it’s hard to know what to invest (time, money, space) in. It’s hard to know if it’s worth it, or if it’s one of those things were it’s nice, but it’s really not important in life. But part of me says I have to try. Going along is slow death.

The theory is good, but I’m just really not sure what it means in real life.

 

 

Be Still

Writing is one of the few ways I know how to be “be still.” It’s not that I’m always moving, or always being with people. It’s just that I’m so often doing. But I feel like I have really been challenged of late to learn how to be still, so as I attempt to pick up the pieces of yet another week, I am coming back to this place of vulnerability.

A blog I follow recently had a beautiful post written on loving someone more than their own personal need to be remarkable, and on the terrifying nature of smallness. While I understood and empathized with what she was saying, I also winced with pain as I lay squashed on the other side of the coin.

I just wanted a small life. In my mind, my life would consist of a “low-skills” level job. I would pursue my hobbies and creative interests with curiosity and delight. Eventually (not too eventually), I would meet someone and we’d marry and have children. I would always be busy – but it would be with things like canning pickles, and teaching children, and striving after the elusive recommended amount of daily activity. I would be stressed, but it would be about things like “why is there no clean underwear for anyone in this entire house?” and how the car needed muffler work. I would still sometimes be lonely, because everyone is, but I’d be a good neighbor and a good friend. Sometimes I would fight with my husband, because that is what you do: you unintentionally hurt the people you care about most, probably because you trust them most to love you in spite of your flaws. But we would mostly be happy, and especially happy when we were together, even just sitting on the couch so close you couldn’t lose a piece of popcorn between us.

I thought that was what life was about. I waited for that life, and I certainly didn’t think I was asking for too much, because it was just a normal, small, unremarkable life. But that life didn’t come, and I still spend so much time asking myself what I’m doing getting a doctorate degree. I didn’t want a fancy education, an elitist title, a prosperous career. In fact, it feels very empty, compared to what I wanted. And as I struggle through trying to understand my own life and my own self, I feel myself pulled two directions.

On the one hand, I have yet to stop scheming about how I could get back to that small life. Nothing fancy, but pleasant. Just to be a good neighbor and a good friend, and finally get to the point I was sewing all of my own clothes, because it is fun. But that is twinged with the same pain of giving up your childhood dream of being a superhero. It still sounds nice, but it’s too late now to pretend it’s a possibility.

And on the other hand, I feel the tug and pull of an unseen force causing me to slide relentless toward Being Remarkable. Don’t these thoughts sound terribly melodramatic? Ahhh, I wanted to be the lowly miller’s daughter, and I’m being made into a princess against my will! Save me!

My horoscopes (a.k.a every variant of personality test I’ve ever been made to take or have taken for my own amusement) assures me that I am highly unusual, an advocate for mankind, a firey fighter of pain and injustice. Plus, they add in a more practical tone, you have such annoyingly high standards, you’ll never be happy working for anyone else and you might as well get used to the idea you’re going to be self-employed.

What? Whaaaaaat! I sit here once again in the bitter ashes of prophecy. All my life, people have declared over me what I will do or become. I have fought the back, sometimes bitterly. I’m not that kind of person; that’s not what I want; you don’t understand. Invariably, whatever it was that was said comes to pass and I’m the one who is wrong–about her own self. Do I commit my life into the interpretation of an online personality test? No, of course not. It’s alarming only because it pulls up the echos of every single voice that has ever said that to me over the last decade. Over my protestations that “I’m really not interested in running my own business!”

There is a bit of a sense of resignation I see beginning to creep into my mindset. Fine. No use trying to avoid it any longer. I might as well just get it over with. The plan post graduation may as well turn directly into self-employment. Any thing else is just putting off the inevitable. Whether I want it or not, that will be where I wind up.

The sensible people – the ones not declaring prophecy over me – hear my protestations that I don’t know what I’ll do after graduation, and respond sensibly: well, you’ll get a job, of course. Then I stare at these people as though they’ve sprouted a third ear (poorly placed). They clearly did not even understand the words coming out of my mouth. Upon reflection, though, the problem really is that I don’t understand the words coming out of my mouth.

What I mean to say is: even after all this, I still want that small life. I still want my biggest hurdles to be how to run a homemade ice cream stand with my children, and I still want to figure out how I best fit into the curve of my husband’s arm, and I still want to be relatively Unremarkable. But I don’t seem to have a say in that matter – any of those matters. And I’m scared of the ideas I have inside of my own head. They sound good, when they’re up there in my head, but I’m afraid that when I try to bring them into the real world, they’ll shrivel up like tender greens on a hot pan.

I’m scared that I’ll not get what I think I want, and I’m scared of trying to become the person I think I’m being called to be.

I don’t think, and have never thought, that a person ought to be motivated by fear. But I do think that the Truth invariably invokes a certain amount of Holy Fear. Fear, itself, does not tell me I’m on the wrong track. The pain is that the accepting of one appears to be the mourning of the other.

People say that we tend to make God too small. That we declare things impossible, when He steadfastly maintains that no such thing exist. That we give up hope long before He wants us to stop asking. These are true things, and things that I wrestle with. But I am also wrestling with another truth: Not my will, but Yours. We do okay with “my will and Yours,” but with when it comes to “not my will, but Yours,” things get pretty dicey. I feel like the question being posed to me is, “Will you do My will, even if it means giving up on your own?”

You can’t fake this question out. You can’t say, “Oh, probably. I’m sure if push came to shove I would, but we can find a way to work this out so we’re both happy.” Abraham didn’t get to say, “Oh, probably.” The three men sentenced to deathly furnace didn’t get to say, “oh, probably.” I did pick those examples for a reason – in the end, lives were preserved. But it wasn’t by people holding on. It was by people taking the action and the commitment to say with their very lives, “Not my will, but Yours.” Even if, in the end, God declares that I will have the thing that I dread to be impossible, I still have to bow my knee and be willing to say, “I want to do what you want me to do, more than I want what I want.”

And that’s why her post resonated with me. In some ways, we are saying the same things. We’re saying it’s scary to give up our “rights” to have dreams, in favor of an unknown thing we did not ask for. And on some level, we know we’re fighting it, and on some level, we want to repent. But it calls for great trust, and trust is not even an easy word to write.