Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

flats red pants front steps

Spring has sprung for sure here in Cambridge. I came back from a quick visit to Texas to find dogwoods, lilacs and tulips in full flower. The nights are still chilly and the mornings often misty, but the days are crisp and sunny – sometimes downright mild.

I’ve been working my winter uniform for months, rotating between half a dozen dresses (mostly striped, black or denim) with black ankle boots, fleece-lined tights, my crimson scarf and a cozy grey sleeveless cardigan I found in Oxford last fall. But – glory of glories – I need something lighter to wear now.

It’s not quite bare-legs weather yet, at least for me, and I don’t want to spend ages getting dressed in the morning (really, who has time for that?). But I realized last week that I’d come up with a spring uniform almost by accident.

katie scarf beach

Right now it looks like this: cropped trousers (I have the same ones in red and black) + sweater or long-sleeved top (black, gray, white, striped or some combination thereof) + tank top. I’m still wearing a scarf (usually red, or the patterned one above) most days, and then I slip on my ankle boots or Rothy’s flats. (See above: I also own a red pair.) I’m still hedging my bets and wearing my beloved green coat, mostly, but I’ve reached for my spring trench coat a time or two.

I’m no style innovator, but I’d rather look classy, be comfortable and feel like myself than spend a lot of time experimenting. The uniform will shift again when we reach full summer, but for now, this is working for me.

Do you do the uniform-dressing thing? What are you wearing this spring?


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darwins portrait red lipstick

About a year ago, I became fascinated by the concept of a personal uniform. (It was all over the Internet for a while: President Obama’s blue or grey suits, the Australian newscaster who wore the same suit every day for a year, numerous bloggers writing about their wardrobes.)

I’m not a big clothes shopper and I hate making decisions in the morning, so you’d think a personal uniform would be tailor-made (ha) for me. So far, though, I’ve lacked the discipline – or the commitment – to really take the plunge. I haven’t edited my wardrobe down to 10 items or consciously worn the same 33 items for a month. (I have also resisted the Marie Kondo madness because, frankly, everyone else seems to be doing it.)

But as we continue to slog through winter, I realized I’ve developed a personal uniform almost by accident.

Winter in the Northeast is (I need hardly say it) cold – often bitterly so – and snowy. I work in a business-casual office environment and I commute on public transportation, every weekday. So I need warm, sturdy winter gear: snow boots, fleece-lined tights, a knee-length down coat for frigid days and a couple of wool coats for milder ones. But I also need outfits to wear under those coats, and I find myself reaching for a variation on the same ensemble most days.

katie selfie red dress plaid scarf

Right now, that usually looks like a dress, either solid or striped (because I own an embarrassing number of striped dresses). I pair the day’s dress with black leggings and boots (of the snow or non-snow variety, depending on the weather). And I choose a scarf or knitted cowl to go with it. (That, and choosing my tea blend, is the kind of decision-making I can handle in the morning.)

I do own other pieces of clothing – sweaters, tees, skirts – and sometimes I feel like I should be making more of an effort to wear them. But right now, when I’m rushing around between showering and eating breakfast every morning, this winter uniform is what’s working for me.

Do you have a personal uniform – accidental or purposeful? (And if so, what is it?)

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something good polka dot mug

I’ve been thinking a lot about decision fatigue lately – because I have it, big-time.

For many of us, each day holds (potentially) a thousand small decisions: what do I wear? What do I eat? What do I read or watch or listen to? How do I tackle projects at work, and in what order? Do I make this phone call, respond to that email, engage in this online conversation? And what on earth do I buy everyone for Christmas?

I’m easily overwhelmed by lots of options. The exception is a bookstore, where the browsing – for me – is a big part of the fun. (My husband, on the other hand, likes to pick one book and read it till I’m done perusing the shelves.)

brookline booksmith interior twinkle lights

In most areas of my life, the decisions can start to crowd my brain until it feels like there’s no mental space left. I like to have choices (and I’m often terrified of being bored), but in this busy season, I’m trying not to waste all my energy on small decisions. So the answers to a few key questions lately are nearly the same every day.

  • What am I wearing? Some version of my winter personal uniform: black leggings and boots with a dress and cardigan, a cozy scarf and my jade-green wool coat. (I’m putting off the switch to the down coat as long as I can.)
  • What am I brewing in the morning? Santa’s Secret black tea with peppermint, usually in my old cobalt blue mug from the Ground Floor. It feels just right in my hands.
  • What am I reading? My Advent book, over breakfast. Working through the review stack, on my commute. And Winter Solstice, before bed.
  • What am I eating for lunch? Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers. Sometimes boring, but reliably tasty. (Bonus: they’re free!)
  • What am I cooking? Simple, tasty meals: pasta with veggies, chicken burritos, lots and lots of soup. (Bonus: leftovers!)
  • What am I listening to? This one’s easy: Christmas music, all the time.
  • What color am I painting my toenails? A festive, rich crimson – until I can make time for a pedicure.
  • What am I ordering at Darwin’s? Chai. Always chai.

Maybe I’ll mix it up a little after the New Year. But for now, this is what’s working.

Are you an overthinker, like me? Do you thrive on routine, or do you relish the chance to make every day different?

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you don’t have to know

We have lots of friends in transition right now. Fewer, perhaps, than we did this summer, when Grace and Kelsey moved into new houses and Jake and Sarah got married and Bethany, Nate and Abi, and J and I moved across the country. But, since Boston is such an academic center, we’ve met lots of people who’ve come here for school, which of course means they eventually finish and start pursuing the next step.

My friend Beth, who just defended her dissertation, is searching for work – possibilities at this point include universities in several different states. Like me, she has a tendency to what-if every scenario to death, analyzing each job/location in terms of her work, her husband’s work, church communities, climate, distance from parents and in-laws, possible schools/youth groups for their (future) children, and on and on it goes. (You do this too, right? I know Beth and I aren’t the only ones who tend to be slightly neurotic regarding our unknown futures.)

Anyway, we were talking the other night, and I finally told her what my friends told me just before we moved to Boston: Wherever you go, you don’t have to stay there forever. You may spend two years, or five or ten years, someplace and love it – or you may hate it, or simply decide to move on. And that’s okay. Sometimes it’s enough to just take the adventure that’s offered right now, knowing it doesn’t have to be permanent.

I thought back to my last semester of college, when I didn’t know what I planned to do, where I was going to live, how I was going to support myself, and was getting very tired of saying “I don’t know” to everyone and their dog. My friend Tracy, who teaches history at ACU, smiled when I repeated my refrain to her, and said simply, “You don’t have to know.”

I didn’t believe her then, of course. I thought I had to have it all figured out by May (this was in March or April), and of course, in a stroke of cosmic irony, my life didn’t really fall into place until August. But what Tracy meant was: it will all work out. Keep searching; take the next step and the next; move into your sister’s house for the summer, keep working at your student job, keep looking for the next thing; and it will find you.

As it turns out, Tracy was right, and she’s been right several times over, when I didn’t know what the next job/house/major life decision looked like. The philosophy of simply taking the step you can see in front of you, and waiting and searching for the next thing, has been true for me. And I think it will be true for Beth too.

I’m not saying she (or anyone) shouldn’t search, apply, do research, interview, seek advice, pray or think deeply about major life decisions. But I am saying it’s enormously freeing when you realize: I don’t have to know what the rest of my life will look like. I just have to take the next step, whatever that is. I just have to live today.

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