Back to School: Adult Edition

I’ve always been the type to get giddy when September rolls around. It’s a time brimming with new opportunities and the infectious potential for change. Though people often wait until the twilight days of December to think about pressing the reboot button on their lives—quickly fashioning resolutions after whatever residue is left over from a debaucherous holiday season—I’m partial to rethinking things a bit earlier in the year.  After all, this is a time with a much clearer break between past and present—the lazy days of summer give way to the busy-bee buoyancy of autumn and all that that season entails (schools reconvening, jobs either starting anew or revving up after a slower summer, etc.)

Every year before school started I would envision myself in some different, more exciting light. A period that really stands out was one in middle school, after a summer spent idolizing faux-punk-rocker Ashlee Simpson and the edgy-for-a-Disney-star Hillary Duff, whose first classic album had dropped that summer (you can’t deny it—“So Yesterday” is still the fucking jam).  With our bumpy noses in common (before she crossed over to the plastic surgery dark side), I was inspired by the youngest Simpson to cut my hair shorter in order to highlight my angular features. It was an age in which a new haircut inspired by a celebrity idol seemed like a fail-safe road to that elusive land called confidence. The flatiron would become my total-transformation weapon of choice, aiding in the pretty-hardcore-with-an-emphasis-on-pretty look that I sought. With this change locked-in, I also attempted to emulate the prissy-punk wardrobes of both aforementioned starlets. This involved a questionable amalgamation of cheap jewelry, black blazers and ripped jean skirts, with excessive black eyeliner. It was a look, for sure, though perhaps not one with an impending comeback.

Of course these changes—the ones mentioned being especially superficial—were fairly delusive, but they put a spring in my step and helped to enthuse me for the year ahead. We humans are suckers for hope, for the notion that we can change for the better—and though our goals don’t always work out in the straight-and-narrow ways that we want them to, I still believe they benefit us and contribute to the overall richness of our lives. Though it seemed, on the surface, that I was simply hoping for a makeover and a fun new wardrobe, it was really representative of wanting to be the confident girl I totally wasn’t. In the Misses Simpson and Duff, I found an ideal that I wanted to pursue, and though emulating their outfit choices wouldn’t get me there, idolizing their stage personalities actually did help me (in some small way) work towards getting comfortable with standing out instead of fitting in. My changes were by no means groundbreaking, but in a school environment rife with popped-collar-blondes who played lacrosse, I definitely stood out.

That summer transformation was really just a building block for the formation of my personality, which would be fashioned slowly, year after year, as I grew older. The more you try on different hats, the easier it is to pinpoint what you like and don’t like, who you really are beyond the mirror. Standing still, conversely, does not make for much personal insight.

Though my identity-lines are much clearer now, I’m still young, and there’s a lot of growth awaiting me. As such, I continue to look forward to this time of year, especially now at such an exciting juncture—one in which my life (and yours, too, if you’re around my age) starts to follow a definitive path unburdened by strict expectations (read: school) and freed up to pursue personal choice. Just like those many first-days-of-school in my rearview, it is a feeling with equal parts anxiety and exhilaration. It, too, will involve metamorphoses both deep-rooted and superficial. I will try to work out some lifestyle and personality kinks, as I do every year. Since one of those involves simplifying, I will probably sell half my wardrobe and invest in more substantial, long-lasting pieces. At times we truly need that imagery, or an icon, to help propel our interior changes. It would be nice if we could make all personal changes with a simple snap of our fingers, but outlook is often built upon the way we feel about who we are, much of which comes from the picture we paint of ourselves for the world to see. Delusion, in my experience, is one of life’s greatest tricks, one very capable of turning fiction into reality. This fake it ‘til you make it ethos is one that seems to go hand in hand with the start of a new school/work year.

Goal #1: Less bitchface, more smiles.

Goal #1: Less bitchface, more smiles.

What do you aspire towards this fall? What tools might help you make that transformation? Though material things won’t do all the work for us, there’s no shame in a little economy-boosting game when it comes to propelling change. Give in to a little fantasy, in honor of your younger self—it’s harmless, and very often, it actually pays off.

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