The magic of Inbox Zero has allowed me the chance to embark on that which had previously seemed unlikely—a 30-day streak of writing short posts. Here’s to Day One, appropriately on the topic of doing scary things!
As a socialized person walking in this world, I have developed a narrative about myself over time. I like to think that I am kind and resourceful, that I care about people. Those are the parts of my narrative that I like to feed and show others.
But other, more brittle parts of my narrative have started to scrape at me, and only the doing of scary things can wrest me free. For example, I believe that I am a terrible dresser, and that I’ve always been a terrible dresser. It’s not what I wear; it’s who I am. Hey, I was voted Worst Dressed of my high school class, so I have collegial affirmation!
I convinced myself that this dubious award was fine by me, because it exonerated me from makeup, shopping, and the torture of heels. I’m also an introvert (this is often disbelieved by acquaintances and understood by friends), so being badly dressed in society has served as an invisibility cloak. No one looks at the frumpy new girl. Social awkwardness problem sorted!
As I have gotten older and moved into more professional spaces, however, I have felt my narrative shift from “I’m a terrible dresser” to the more perilous “I don’t belong here.” From testifying in the state capital, to moderating forums, to interviewing for jobs, I have felt my imposter syndrome tugging at my waistband. Of course it has never been about what I was wearing, per se, except as a visible marker of who I feel I am.
I was starting to feel socially and professionally incapacitated by my wardrobe narrative. Something needed to change.
That’s when I decided to become a Bid Assistant for Marquam Auction Agency.
Fundraising auctions hold a special space at the intersection of stand-up comedy, theatre, and nonprofit development. These are all things I love. The only problem was what to wear. Bid Assisting, like any theatrical role, is costumed. Unlike theatre productions I have been part of in the past, there is no Costume Designer. It was a conundrum.
Thank heavens for Kim Harrison. At dinner one evening with Brad and Kim, I started fretting about what to wear to my first auction and to the next job interview. Kim said the sweetest words I have heard in a long time: “May I be your personal stylist?” Yes, Kim, yes you angel of mercy, yes you may.
Brad and Kim’s basement held a treasure trove of dresses the fashionable Kim was planning to give away. She and Brad thumbs upped a number and thumbs downed a few. A few days after dinner, I moderated a forum at City Club wearing a dress that Kim and Brad had approved. It felt like I belonged onstage. A week after that, I served as Bid Assistant at a school’s fundraising auction. I wore one of Kim’s dresses and decided I belonged there, too. I asked other Bid Assistants a whole slew of questions about clothes, makeup, wearing heels, whatever came into my head. They were so kind! I felt a new world opening up, one in which I could choose who I become.
It’s a strange, heady, and scary thing to confront part of your narrative and decide you want the story you have been telling yourself to change. Even the castigating stories hold comfort over time. I still have to consciously decide to feel I belong most places; but I’ve decided that there is a pathway to belonging, and that Kim’s dresses are my talismans as long as I need a physical clue.