My Style Journey…

I think the best way to describe my style is to explain how my style developed. I believe style and fashion is a form of personal expression, so I would say my style has been a journey, just like my development as a person has been.

Firstly, as a teenager, a time where personal style tends to most especially develop, I really didn’t have much of a personal style. I followed trends, wore whatever was popular, with a few personal likes thrown in. For example, I remember in the summer of 1998, khaki pants from the GAP were popular where I was, so I had a pair and wore them often. Nevermind that I felt awkward in those khakis because I felt it made me look heavier; I just wanted to keep critical classmates at bay.

I do remember during my junior and senior year two shirts from Mandee that could be best described as boho-like. I loved those shirts, but tried my best not to wear them too much or else those critical classmates would not be kept at bay.

You see, I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem in high school. In fact, I had zero self-esteem. I was bullied a lot, and blamed myself for it, thus leading to a self-loathing mentality. But the clothes I wore did not reflect that. Instead, I relied on clothes to make me feel better about myself. The prettier the shirt, for example, the better I would feel.

Yet, this didn’t always work. It wasn’t like if I wore a lovely shirt, I would like myself. If anything, the pretty clothes were like a costume, pretending to be something I wasn’t. It was like a role I was trying to assume, and I would do this for many years – wearing clothes to make me feel better about myself.

Yes, I would insert a few outfits that I personally liked, no matter the trends or what people said. Starting in high school, I loooooved skirts and dresses. I felt feminine that way and tried to wear them often. Too bad kids at school would mock me, saying I looked like a teacher (OK, I did), and that made me afraid to wear the clothes I wanted. Basically, I was too concerned with others thought about me, so I never really developed myself as a person. Instead of getting to know myself and explore myself, I was consumed with what people thought of me (or what I thought they thought of me) for many years – and I mean, many.

You might recall an earlier post where I explored my interest in goth sub-culture. It is true in junior high and high school, I admired some goth style, particularly the witchy and the Victorian-like styles. But I didn’t have to guts to explore that side of me for a number of reasons. Among them, fear of being bullied and too self-loathing to truly express who I was.

So, for my teens, 20s, and early 30s, I wore clothes that I felt I should wear, not what I wanted. Yes, I wore a lot of skirts and dresses. But I wore what was trendy, or I would wear something to make me feel pretty, to mask the ugliness I felt inside. Again, I felt the clothes I wore were making up for what I did not have or feel.

You could say, since style is personal and a reflection of one’s self, my style during this period reflected me running away from myself and trying to be something I wasn’t.

Things started to change when I was 31 and moved from Staten Island to Brooklyn. I was on my own for the first time, and free to get to know myself and develop a sense of self. I didn’t expect that to happen, but once it began, it was exciting. And a little scary at the same time. A new world had opened up, and a new me was coming to light. At this time, I remember wearing pastel sweaters with sequins on them, sparkly tops, and gold glittery flats. As in, outfits to make me feel pretty since I felt ugly inside.

But as I got to know myself, and became kinder to myself, I began to eschew these items. I started to go with plainer, simpler clothes, and to my thrill, I did not feel ashamed. I didn’t care anymore what people thought, and it was liberating. I also began to explore the boho-chic look, though not all of it would appeal to me. Some did, like peasant tops and Roman coin jewelry. But I wasn’t fully boho.

Eventually, I began to feel more comfortable in darker clothes, particularly black. But I was still hesitant. I was afraid of being teased for wearing too much black. I wasn’t ready to let that side of me out.

Then came a dark period in my life, so to speak. I was at this job from hell, that caused me to develop serious mental health issues. I began to embrace darker colors, and soon began to explore the goth subculture again. I became honest with myself that I should’ve been a goth as a teen, and felt like I missed out on a major development period in both style and as a person. After all, I had spent years and years trying to be something I wasn’t and not being honest with myself. So, where would I be now if I had done that whole goth phase when I was younger?

At the same time, the major mental health problems I went through left me with some shame and a sense of darkness in me. I felt like I had gone through some sort of an abyss in me, and it took a while for me to get over it. Basically, I was haunted by my mental breakdown, and it took a while for me to love myself again and not feel ashamed about what I experienced (Someday I’ll talk more about my mental health journey, but not right now).

But still, I could not see myself wear clothes that were not dark. It felt like I was slowly, very slowly, stepping into my own skin whenever I would buy clothes that were dark red, dark blue, gray or even black. I still felt uneasy, mainly because I felt I was far too old to be developing this side of myself. But then again, I believe in the saying, to thine self be true. And my truth was reflected in dark clothing.

Over this past summer, I re-embraced my penchant for dark clothes, most especially black. I could not ignore that I felt like I was truly in my skin whenever I wore black. It just felt – and feels – natural. It is who I am.

True, I do get self-conscious still. Even though I am embracing an all-black look more and more, I still tend to wear other colors – red, purple, gray, dark blue and even ivory. I choose to wear ivory sometimes because I believe in healing, and ivory/off-white/ecru/whatever reflects that belief. But I wear other colors because sometimes I like the clothing item I see, or I feel like I should “spice up” my wardrobe by wearing more than just black all the time. I don’t know if it is because I am worried what others say or think, but I suspect this is common among those who wear black all the time.  Like, perhaps we admit we could use a different color now and then, or there’s more to us besides black. Hmmm, that sounds like a blog post topic down the road!

Anyway, I am feeling more comfortable in my skin these days. If dark colors are it, then so be it. To hell with the opinion of others. I am more at ease with my style more so than I ever was, mainly because I have more inner peace and self-liking more than ever. And my clothing choices are a reflection of that.

And who knows where my style journey would take me? Will I be in black at age 50? Who knows?

Just who knows?

 

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Growing Because I Must

“Well I’ve been afraid of changing
‘cuz I built my life around you.
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too”

We all know those famous lines from “Landslide”, Stevie Nicks’ all-time greatest song (IMO). It speaks to a lot of us who have to make serious changes to our lives in order to grow, develop and mature into well-rounded human beings. Sometimes it can be fighting alcoholism, drug-addiction, eating disorders, depression or even personality disorders. Other times it could be bad personal habits we have that prevent us from being mature enough, to be developed well-enough and to be an actual “grown up”.

This past week, I decided to finally confront the fact that I am not exactly an emotionally mature person. I’ve always been aware that I do not take care of myself in an emotional sense. I tend to keep my emotions locked up, my vulnerability safely secured behind a thick, high wall. I’ve been that way since I was a teenager, and now, after spending 20 years like this, I’m confronting the fact that this is not healthy for me.

How did I come to this point? Well, I’ve always been aware that I can be robotic and don’t allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable at all. I don’t display in-depth emotions. Any emotions I do display are surface-level, therefore immature. The results are having difficulty controlling the in-depth emotions, such as anger, anguish or anxiety. As my therapist pointed out, it is as if I am stuffing my emotions into a tight suitcase. But because they are packed so tightly inside, the suitcase bursts open. I’ve experienced that a lot in the past few years, where my emotions burst open. And it wasn’t pleasant! IMG_4435

I’ve been trying since November to feel more in-depth emotions, but with little success. It is not easy because it is like flexing new muscles I do not know how to use. And I have this long-held belief that being vulnerable to whatever degree is a recipe for pain and hurt.

But what really woke me up was this guy I met on a date last weekend. It was a really good date, where we laughed, shared parts of our lives, shared our values, thoughts and opinions on just about everything. It was the best date I had ever been on in a very long time, and I was really looking forward to seeing that guy again.

Unfortunately I haven’t heard from him since. And I think I know why.

He told me I was difficult to read, that he couldn’t figure me out.

Now, that could mean a number of things. But I interpreted it as a sign that I was not emotionally open enough, that I was too robotic, the walls were up too high.

That was when I decided to finally make the effort to emotionally mature, and join the rest of the world.

It’s been hard since, as I said, I am flexing new muscles. I also have to undo the belief that being vulnerable means being weak. But I am determined to be develop emotionally, because I want to be more in control of my emotions, instead of having them burst out of me in self-destructive ways. It won’t be easy to develop like this, but I must do it.

Basically, I’m emotionally like a teenager. I stopped emotionally developing when I was 16, and from there became an emotional robot/mess. That means picking up where I left off. Which is probably why I am going through a semi-goth phase. Like I mentioned once before, I had an interest in the goth subculture in high school, but never went through on it for a variety of reasons. It may seem immature for a 35 year-old to go through such a phase, but I am being honest with myself in terms of music and fashion. That doesn’t mean I’ll start dressing and behaving like a teenager. I’ll just incorporating where I left off to my current self. I’ll be combining the two.

I have a lot of self-awareness, so that will help me through this developmental stage. I’m mentally mature, but not emotionally. So, put it that way.

Hopefully, whatever the outcome is, I’ll be a better and healthier person.

There’s a saying from the Akan tribe in Ghana: Sankofa. It basically means going back to move forward. That is what I am doing now.

 

Good-Bye Caffeine, Hello Smoothies!

Before 2016 even ends, I am taking steps to reduce my caffeine intake and replace it with more nutritious drinks. I’m not even waiting until the ball drops on Saturday night. I’m starting today.

I am a coffee addict. I could drink three or four cups a day. I like mine with milk and sugar (two spoons), and I adore that sweet aroma. Like many, I also cannot start my day without coffee.

I’m also a coffee shop enthusiast. I’m also on the lookout for a new coffee shop to check out. I’m one of those freelancers who likes to find a place with outlets, so I could drink my caffe while doing my work.

I also like to meet friends over coffee. Bars just don’t do it for me. Occasionally, they do. But I prefer chatting with a friend over the steaming smell of coffee.

Unfortunately, I have been noticing that downside of being a coffeetarian. It really has negative effects on me. This year, in 2016, I’ve experienced a lot of emotional roller coasters over basically nothing. Things that weren’t a big deal spiraled me out of control. This past week, I finally realized why: the caffeine has a negative effect on me.

My therapist once pointed out to me that I needed scale back my coffee intake after one breakdown. And I did, briefly. But soon I was again knocking back the java nonstop.

Well, it is time for me to stop. I can’t be this emotional mess anymore. I need to reduce my caffeine intake.

So what do I substitute coffee with?

Smoothies!

I’d been considering making smoothies as a way of maintaining a healthier diet. But now, with my need to fill the void that coffee will soon leave, what do I drink? Sure, there’s always decaf. But I want a healthier diet. Plus, I like to experiment with recipes.

So, I am now on a mission to make smoothies. Today, I completed my first smoothie, and it was a success! It was the mixed berry smoothie, inspired by a coffee shop I briefly worked at.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup full of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries

1/2 a ripe banana

1 cup of plain yogurt

1/4 cup of orange juice

a drop of milk

Blend it all up, and voila! You’ve got yourself a satisfying, delicious smoothie!

As I move on from here, I am going to try – try! – to maintain a healthier diet by eliminating foods and drinks that wreak havoc on both my mind and body. For me, it is not just about being physically healthy. Mental health is very important to me, so I want to do everything I can to make sure my mind and brain are well-taken care of.

My Interest in Goth Subculture

My first exposure to the goth world was when I was in junior high. There was a this lone, quiet girl who didn’t seem to have too many friends. But she drew a lot of attention because of her unconventional outfits. She wore black everyday, for one. She once wore red velvet pants, and another day, wore pants with white skulls on them. She also wore thick dark eye makeup and dyed her hair black. This was all in eighth grade.

When I first saw her, like many, I was scared and repelled by her. She was a freak to me, and I wanted her to go away. Yet, at the same time, I was intrigued by her and her outfits. I found myself wondering what she would wear each day, and sometimes I liked what I saw – such as a lacy black top or a fuzzy off-shoulder top. It was unusual and daring, and I slowly was fascinated with that type of style.

I could never dare to dress like that, though. This was junior high, the epitome of childhood bullying. Dressing goth like that was like social suicide. I could never dress so differently from everyone else. Plus, my parents were rather strict and wouldn’t support me expressing myself in such a way. You can say my self-expression was repressed. It would be for quite a long time.

A year later, a few more kids began dressing in that “rocker” type of style. Only they were more grungy and Marilyn Manson-like. Meaning, they either looked dirty or downright scary. There was no way I was going to emulate them. Besides, Marilyn Manson was huge with this crowd, and I was not interested in the music. Too loud, too hateful, too scary, too much of a lot of things. I was turned off.

However, I became so-so friends with one of the girls in this crowd. She was cool, in the sense that she literally did not care what other people thought of her. Totally. Honestly. And it was really amazing to witness her brush off, or even laugh off, verbal and physical harassment from the other kids. Adolescence is such a difficult time, and wanting to be accepted is a major part of the period in life. Many at that age wants everyone to like them, so to see someone bold enough to laugh off brutal comments was admirable.

I moved later that year, and at my new high school, there were some goth types, though they were more like metalheads when I look back on them. There were a few who were genuine goths, and I met a few of them. Again, they were so cool in their insistence on being different. But I was far from ready to not worry about what other people thought of me.

Still, my interest in the goth subculture was there. I remember when Madonna’s “Frozen” video came out, with her in that goth attire. I watched and rewatched that video so many times because I was so intrigued by her outfit. I knew then I was drawn to the romantic, mysterious side of goth. I wasn’t into the vampirish, dark metal kind of goth because it seemed too hard for me. But the other kind? Wow, I used to daydream about dressing like that.

But I was having low self-esteem issues, and suffering from depression for most of my teen years. In fact, all of my teen years saw me having low self-esteem and depression. I had zero confidence and a poor sense of self. Years of being bullied and given poor guidance in life led to deep confusion and self-hatred. I started to dress in a way that shaped an image of what I thought I should be. I wore pastels and bright colors. I wore outfits that had sequins, glitter, and lace on them. I wanted to feel pretty because I felt so ugly inside.

I would have this mindset, and dress like this, during my teens and my twenties.

Then, when I turned 30, things started to change for me, as it wonts to happen when people turn 30. I began to discard my pretty clothes, and began focusing inward. I began dressing plainly and simply. I became more self-aware and more self-confident. My self-esteem improved.

With that, my interest in dark clothing and even goth fashion began to spark in me. I was becoming more honest and more comfortable with myself. And I had to be honest that dark colors were like a bright light for me.

During all this, however, I would face challenging moments and dark situations that exposed to me a different side of me. I began to understand that my mental issues would never leave me, and I would have to manage them rather than try to banish them. I began to make peace with my inner darkness, which included depression, mania, anxiety and pessimism. As I did, I felt more drawn towards goth attire. It was as if dark clothing, especially black clothing, helped me embrace my own inner darkness. Wearing black was a like a filter for my darkness so it could come to surface for the rest of the world to see. I could not go on wearing pastels or bright colors. Dark clothing was it. Whether it was black, gray, burgundy, purple, dark blue or red, I felt at home in my own skin finally.

But not all the colors I wear are dark. Because I believe in healing and inner peace, I also wear ivory or cream colors. I could never wear actual white, so I stick to something a couple of shades darker. Maybe someday I’ll wear magenta, but not yet.

As I explore my goth side, I find myself enjoying the jewelry, the clothing, the music most often liked by goths, and some of the entertainment. However, I realize there is so many facets to goth subculture. There’s literally dozens of subcultures within the subcultures. There’s corporate, bohemian, punk, cyber, vampire, and so much more! It’s a bit tough to find where I place. You could say I am corporate goth because I have a professional job. There’s also a good chance that I’m boho goth because I love boho clothes, though in dark shades! Then there’s the Victorian-romantic look…

Either way, I will find my path into the goth world. I’ll soon figure out what it means to be a goth – for me, at least. All I know is that I have been drawn to this world for a long time, and I’m finally embracing that fact. I am exploring myself and learning more about myself. As I develop, so does my personal style.

To be continued….