Introspection – Clothes Make the Career Mindset

A well organized closet is a double-edged sword.  – Elizabeth

I’ve had a lifelong love-hate relationship with closets.  

When I was very young I had to share a very small closet with a sibling.  Because it really was too small to be functional a lot of stuff ended up getting shoved under beds in the room we shared.  

More than a feng shui no-no it was a great way to lose small items like socks.

In my early teens I had a closet that was bare.

And I mean bare.  Not better times in life.

In that case I pushed everything to one side and kept the sliding door closed over the other so it didn’t seem quite as empty.

In high school it became a place to put not only clothes but posters and other visual aids that inspired creativity.

Paving the way for my novels to become reality.

Closet Normal.  

Once I was fully entrenched in corporate my closet found itself organized for the simple fact every piece in it had a purpose.

Since many suits and blouses were Christmas and birthday gifts it also served as incentive to smile every time I looked inside.  

It also reminded me of a brilliant colleague – who left corporate to become a full-time writer – who advised me on dressing for the job I wanted not the one I had. 

 Thank you MT!

Tweaks Thanks to Advice from Mom.  

I’d just moved back to the Midwest from Silicon Valley, my closet filled with a hodge podge of Caliornia stuff alongside suits.

Messy – like my state of mind at that point.

My mom told me of a TV show on which a guest who was a professional organizer explained that most people wear 20% of their outfits 80% of the time.  Armed with that I did the first major wardrobe purge of my life.

I’d always donated what I outgrew or no longer needed but taking a hard look at what I truly wore was something I hadn’t done before.

Career Identity – The Clothing Evolution

Life in Silicon Valley – corporate clothing wise – was always more casual than the Midwest.

My first day of work in Santa Clara I ran into a sales guy in shorts, tank top, flip flops and sunglasses.  When I asked if he was on vacation he laughed and explained he was on his way to Intel and that his attire was not only right it was what he would see at his customer as well.

Rather than get rid of perfectly good suits I swapped out the skirts and pants for jeans.  

Colleagues would often say “You can take the girl out of the Midwest…” in response to my formal attire.

Career Identity Trouble Brews

Though I left corporate to pursue writing full-time I kept all the beautiful suits.  Unfortunately, wearing them to work on a novel didn’t feel right.

Or comfortable.

Wearing jeans and a t-shirt, however, felt too casual and stymied my creativity.

I didn’t feel like I was working.

About a year and a half later I decided to donate my suits.

I wasn’t wearing them and seeing them in the closet was keeping me stuck between my old career and my new one.

Career Identity Trouble Intensifies.

This was the beginning of a years long wrestle with my career wardrobe as every time I looked in my closet I felt confused.

And inadequate.

No Goldilocks In Sight.

I vascillated between overly formal which killed my ability to be creative…

Stemming no doubt from being physically uncomfortable/feeling physically confined.

And feeling like a bum because I was dressed so casually…

Inhibiting my ability to take my writing career as seriously as I had my corporate one.

Changes Outside Inside

Aaron supported me as I tried multiple versions of wardrobe pieces, taking effort to explain that in the time since I left corporate, things had become even more casual in terms of work wardrobe.

What I remembered from when I was there was no longer en Vogue.

For all his support, my psyche was still caught in conflict.

Too formal V. Too casual.

Irony

Perhaps the biggest irony is this now being an issue for thousands thanks to the Work From Home wave brought on by the pandemic.

Changes Inside Outside

The Closet Speaks

I’ve come to see recently that my closet was always a reflection of where I was along life’s path.  In terms of my career I have been successful in having what I needed but only this weekend past did I see that I have what I wanted, a wardrobe that reflects who I am – career-wise. Specifically, I came to see my casual work wardrobe has evolved as I have.

Career wise.

Over the past 2 or so years I’ve worked in pajamas, jeans, and t-shirts associated with the various series.

I’ve also put on more formal tops if the Muse moved me.

Though I understand the more comfortable I am the more likely the words will flow, it’s how I see myself as the writer that should drive what I wear.

It’s Attitude not Clothes!

There was a time when wearing pajamas and working on the couch got me down because I felt I shouldn’t do it.  It didn’t matter that I was highly prolific.  My mind was stuck back in corporate thinking What would people think if they saw me?

Slacker anyone?

Over recent months as I’ve made changes on my website and to my project calendar I have further tweaked my wardrobe to better reflect the changes that were every bit as internal as external. 

The Weekend Breakthrough.

This weekend past I spent time in a closet that was already cleaned and organized to see what if anything was tied to the old writer me.  I then took any items I felt fit that bill and put them into a donate bag.  

The idea being let go of what no longer serves.

Though I know that I, like my career, am still evolving, at least I will be journeying with less baggage.

Fewer items holding me in a place I have not been in a long time.

Interestingly, the most important work was done before I went through the closet.

Internally.

I needed to come to peace with who I have become in the years since leaving corporate long before thinning the wardrobe.

Be well and journey light!