Sort of a New Year’s Post, but not really

I have been trying to write a New Year’s post for almost a week now, and I keep abandoning it. I guess that just proves one of the points I keep trying to make in said abandoned posts, that January 1 just doesn’t really feel like a new year to me – I’ve been on the academic schedule too long to think of anything other than the end of August/beginning of September as the beginning of the year. I’m sure I will get weaned off of this eventually, but not this past year, when I moved and started a new job in August, nor this coming year, when I will do the same in (probably) September.

I have two specific goals for the year, and neither have to do with work (although I do want to succeed in my current job and survive my new one. But those are far too ongoing and all-encompassing really to be resolutions in any way).

First, I want to KNIT A SWEATER THAT ACTUALLY FITS AND LOOKS DECENT. I keep starting sweaters and abandoning them once I realize the size is wrong, or the yarn doesn’t fit the pattern, or the pattern is going to look horrible on me. I have one sweater about 1/2 done right now that looks really, really promising – I tried on the part I’ve managed to accomplish, and it fits! and looks like a sweater! and is comfortable! (It’s also looking very very green – almost nuclearly green. But I’m ignoring that part).

The thing about knitting, for me, is that I enjoy the process, but I also really really want to possess whatever object it is I’m creating. I want to make STUFF for ME that I will use and enjoy. But I keep moving to warmer and warmer climes. I’m moving to a state that has had a streak of 39 days in a row above 100 degrees, and where the average lows in December and January are about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. There isn’t a lot of point in making hats or cold-weather scarves or gloves and mittens or blankets and the like. So if we’re talking stuff I would actually use, we’re left with sweaters(non-wool sweaters, mostly – light cardis, short sleeves, but sweaters). Which kind of rules out quick/instant gratification knitting, and puts me in the land of long-term projects.

BUT THIS YEAR I WILL FINISH ONE DAMMIT.

My second goal is to GET A BIKE AND LEARN HOW TO USE IT PROPERLY. I’m less wound up about this one right now, since it’s freezing and there’s snow on the ground here right now and it gets dark by 5:30 pm. But where I live now is a cyclist’s paradise, and where I’m moving to is even better, and ever since getting into spin, I have really envied all the cyclists I see on the trails by mountains where I live. So I would really love to do this at some point in the next year.

(Of course, it’s probably been a solid decade since I’ve been on a bike that actually transports you somewhere, and I’m kinda terrified of crashing. So I think I’m going to be true to the total over-educated wimp I am and take a bike-handling class.)

So those are my goals – the fun ones, the ones I’ve chosen and am excited about. As I mentioned, I also want to succeed in my current job and survive the first few months of my new one (which kinda scares me, but that’s good for you, right?). But those don’t really feel like things I’m choosing to do – they just go with the territory. Does anyone really not want to succeed in their job? I’m sure even the people who don’t care about their jobs would nonetheless prefer not to fail. (Unless you hate your job so much you want to do such a bad job that you get fired, but even that’s a goal.)

This is preying on my mind a little right now because I’m behind at work and a little terrified I’m not going to get certain stuff done by the time it needs to get done. But I have to remind myself the work does always get done – I may have to stay late and run on little sleep for a while, but it gets done – when I was teaching, the semester always did, eventually, pass; here, the cases will pass, too. I guess what I really mean is that I dread the next couple of weeks. For which there’s no one to blame besides myself! (Which doesn’t actually make me feel any better, but is useful to remember.) (I’m behind in part because I engaged in a fairly intense job search in October and November, and I got in a very bad habit of letting that distract me. So time to focus again, which I’ve been doing successfully, but I still have to pay for my sins.)

It doesn’t help that I spent almost two weeks at home with LDH over the holiday, and now I have to adjust to being here on my own again. It’s nice here and all, but I find myself staying up till all hours of the night – even on work nights – which is my classic “LDH isn’t here” thing to do, and I have to stop (I was kind of zombified for the short work week, even after sleeping tons over the holiday, because I refused to go to bed when I need to). And I’ve also spent too much money on clothes – I can’t resist the post-holiday sales. Everything I’ve bought has been from 40-60% off full price, but, yeah, that excuse only goes so far. (I should add that I’m shopping online so none of this has arrived yet, and I have no intention of actually keeping everything, because most of it probably won’t work on me anyway. But the amount of stuff winging its way towards me is still freaking me out a little. As if it’s just magically happened without me playing a part…)

So, staying up late and spending money: two classic signs of anxiety and depression in my world. Which means it’s time to get back to the gym (me and all the resolute hordes), as well as do other stuff that takes me out of my own head. I’m nearly done with training to volunteer at the humane society here, so I need to get that done so I can be scheduled for a regular shift and get some kitteh cuddle therapy. And I’ve signed up for a Spanish class that starts a week from Monday, which I’m excited about – both to learn the language, and to interact regularly with people I DON’T work with. (I really like everyone I work with, but apart from my hairdresser, and the guy who teaches my spin classes, they’re about the only people I ever talk to.)

Here’s my awful confession about Spanish, though: I am not really expecting to have to work very hard, since I’ve taken French, Italian, and Latin, and when I look at written Spanish I can pretty much parse the sentence structure – identify the verbs/nouns/adjectives, that kind of thing. And I can get an awful lot of the vocabulary, too.That said, I can’t speak a damn thing besides English, nor can I understand word one of spoken Spanish. And this time round, I’m taking the language because I really really want to be able to speak it. So I also suspect at some point I’m going to hit a cinderblock wall and suffer a rude awakening about how much work it requires. But it will be good for me.

Anyway. Not sure how I really got to this point, as this isn’t what I intended to talk about when I started this post. As you can see, the whole New Year’s post thing clearly isn’t working for me. But I will stop here, because otherwise it will be June before I manage to say anything about the New Year.

* * * * *

As an aside, I wanted to thank you all so much for your sweet comments on my previous post about Middle Cat. They are all immensely appreciated.

 

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Random bullets of self-sabotage

• I cannot seem to make myself go to bed at what is a reasonable hour given that I really do have to get up by 6:15 to get to work on time. (Pause to note this post’s time stamp…) I can’t even blame it on having work to do at home like I used to when I was a professor; now the work I have to do at home is actual home-related stuff, like laundry and dishes. Have I mentioned I suck at doing that stuff recently? Funnily enough when I shared a kitchen, even though with my husband, mess bothered me – now I can let it go for days. I guess I only mind either other people’s messes, or how messes look to other people. Even without doing that stuff, I stay up too late.

• I have been spending way too much time on sample sale and other discount sites online. I had been only vaguely aware of these things before this fall, when I responded to interview stress not by actually PREPARING, but by trying to make sure I had THE perfect suit/top/shoes/bag/jewelry/hose/suitcase.I should add that none of the results were perfect in the sense of achieving some Platonic ideal, but they worked for me, so that was a relief. But in the process of working that all out, I stumbled on lots of places to buy really nice things less expensively. The problem is that the more I look at these sites, the more I think, “Hey, that bag’s 50% off – that’s a truly EXCELLENT deal!” Which, of course, it is – except that full price, the bag’s $600 and I don’t exactly have $300 to drop on a bag, even when it is a really really great deal. (Some of these sites have couture-ish stuff and I find myself looking at bags that retail for $1000+, marked down to like $600-something. Yes, self, that is an excellent price for a YSL bag, but no, that doesn’t mean you can afford it. Not that I actually have the slightest interest in a YSL bag, but you know, advertising works precisely because the more you look at stuff, the more stuff you want.) It’s sort of amusing how strongly you can think, It’s SUCH a great deal, I really SHOULDN’T pass it up! even when you know the prices are outside your budget. (I should add that it’s not the crazy-priced YSL etc. stuff that tempts me, just the stuff that’s about one level above what I’d usually spend, which seems so REASONABLE when it’s on massive discount.) What’s frustrating isn’t even the spending – I have been pretty frugal – as much as the amount of time I waste looking at items which I think are sort of kind of maybe plausible, until I come to my senses and realize I still can’t afford them – I’m closer, but clothes-buying isn’t horseshoes.

• That said: I bought a suit. (Sssshhhh, don’t tell.) It was crazy cheap for a decent brand suit (<$150 for both pieces) and if it works I will love it to death. So cross your fingers for me. (And hey, next year I’m finally going to have one of those lawyer jobs that requires wearing suits, so I better start collecting some now, right? Right?)

Weekend update

I don't buy the idea that people from the east coast are brasher, ruder, more arrogant than people from other parts of the country. (I think it's just different communication styles/expectations.) But if it were true that east coast people are more arrogant than west coast people, I'd be tempted to blame the landscape.

Saturday I drove to the northern part of my state for a fiber festival (hey, I'm a yarn geek). Towards the end of the drive, you wind through some mountain passes, following the bends of a river, and then start climbing up and up. Then you come to the top of the peak, and a vast green plain opens up before you. It's ringed with mountains – and I mean, mountains; there are, ostensibly, mountains where I went to college, for instance, but these look completely different. And dividing the plain is a huge crack in the earth, a jagged brown gorge ripping through the green. 

I felt very, very small. Not in a bad way. But small. 

The northeast is beautiful, and grand, but on a more human scale. And in the built-up cities, what towers above you is an artificial landscape made by humans. 

The west just seems to put you in a completely different relation to the universe.

* * * * 

The fiber festival was fun – it's always neat to be surrounded by beautiful yarn, and fleeces, and wool and leather products. There were alpaca, and fluffy angora bunnies who looked used to being waited on hand and foot. It's also a highly feminized space, without being about beauty or fashion or other things relating to one's looks. (I was going to say "or shopping," but at least it's shopping for the raw materials from which to make things. It's consumerism, but consumerism that facilitates beautiful craftwork. Or even half-assed and not very attractive craftwork, but still something productive. Well, okay, most knitters I know have ridiculous stashes of yarn, but still, the potential for production is there.) Also, there are a lot of older women. Really, it's very different from the average media portrayal of women, which is quite lovely.

* * * *

The town is beautiful – historic, artistic, physically gorgeous. But it was a little jarring to drive through some very impoverished parts of the state, including lots of Indian country, passing lots of little beat-up towns with rickety mobile homes – and then land in this middle of this highly touristic, precious little town filled with wealthy older white people. I mean, I'm white, and in the grand scheme of the world, I'm not badly off, and soon enough I will be one of these people. I'm not saying they're bad people. Just that it was jarring. 

* * * * 

The trip left me a little torn, actually. One way of looking at it is: I drove 5 hours to spend 3 hours looking at things to buy, and I spent $30 on a (large) skein of yarn, when I could have driven 10 minutes to the yarn store nearby and bought the same amount of yarn for probably less money.

Of course, the other way of looking at it is: I got to see quite a bit more of this state, I did something with my weekend besides sit and stare at the TV or the computer or both, I mingled with other people who love the same hobby that I do, and I commemorated the day with lovely yarn dyed by a local/regional dyer whose products aren't sold in your average yarn store. 

(It is awfully pretty yarn – see? Though LDH was like, "Oh, it's purple – I'm SHOCKED." I kind of have a thing for purple yarns.) 

Photo (23)

* * * *
So, that was my adventure for the weekend. What about you? Did you do anything fun? 

 

Get a job interview, engage in retail therapy

Because, of course, the most important part of a job interview is what you wear, right?

Although it's kinda tempting to buy a new suit (which is of course actually a terrible idea, because buying suits is traumatic and expensive, and buying a suit only for an interview is a sign to the universe that it should not give me the job; although I'd kind of love a light gray one), I'm thinking my navy suit will do. But the blouse I usually wear under the navy suit is getting a wee bit drab and faded. So, enter the suitors from which I (hopefully) shall select:

Shirt 1 Shirt 2
Shirt 4

And this shirt, the image of which the retailer will not let you copy (and let's ignore the way the model looks stoned out of her gourd, shall we?). According to the description, the background to the green floral one above is navy, and I think the background of the first one (most multi-colored) is closer to navy than the picture looks. So we'll see how these turn out.

(Unless, of course, I decide to wear my black suit. In which case I will need a whole different pool of blouses to choose from, and new black pumps to boot. And don't even get me started on the bag – the only reason I'm not stressing about that right now is because I haven't committed to blue/black suit yet.)

(This is, of course, all a diversion from actually preparing for the interview. I have totally forgotten how to do an interview, especially since my last interviews were with judges, and most judges just want to shoot the breeze and see what you're like. I have no idea what substantive questions I'm likely to get asked or how to answer them. But look, I can pick really cool tops to go with my suit! That'll get me hired, right?)

 

The tyranny of choice

Sometime not that long ago (which at this point could be any time in the last ten years) there was discussion in the media about the tyranny of choice: the idea that the more options you have, the harder it is actually to make a choice. There's nothing especially counterintuitive about that idea – on the one hand, I suppose you might assume the more options are out there, the easier it is to find exactly what you're looking for. On the other hand, though, the more options are out there, the harder it is to decide what you want in the first place. 

Shopping at your standard outlet mall these days brings this concept to life.

There's an outlet mall about half an hour south of my city (and an aside: does anyone else remember when outlets were actual outlets? that is, they sold off the seconds/slightly-less-than-perfect models from the current season, and leftovers from previous seasons? rather than being "factory stores" filled with clothing lines made specifically for the outlets, that never bore any relation to the retailer with which the factory store's ostensibly affiliated?). I spent about five hours there yesterday, and didn't even make it through the whole thing before retreating, defeated. (And I actually like shopping!) There's just so. much. stuff.

Anyway, I've lost a bit of weight and it's amazing how much easier it is to find clothes that fit. Unfortunately I ran into that dilemma where the stuff I really liked, I didn't know how much I'd wear, and the stuff I knew I'd wear was – well, just fine. I ended up with a peasant-y top that I really like, and a pair of tailored dark denim crops that I also really like except they're a bit big in the hips (they may shrink, although doubtless not in the hips). I also got three knit tanks (two with lace trim), which will be useful to have but aren't that exciting, and a white cardigan which is a little bit shapeless, but seemed a useful thing for the summer. I'm least sure about a pair of glen-plaid-ish black/white pants (they fit fine but I worry the cut is a bit dumpy), and two short-sleeved cardigans (citron and light gray) (maybe a bit boxy and quite lightweight).

The thing is, I find it impossible to resist cheap clothes that fit. IMPOSSIBLE. (No individual piece I bought was over $24 and most were well under.) Maybe it's because I've spent a lot of time hovering on the edge of standard sizes, having a hard time finding things that fit; maybe it's because going back to school made me feel like a poor student (again).

The thing is, I'd so much rather be that person who buys one or two carefully-chosen, high quality items that I really love, rather than a bunch of crap that's just fine and serves the purpose. When I was in high school I was sort of obsessive about rotating clothes/outfits, because GOD FORBID I wear the same item more than once in a week (or ideally two). The result was that I wore a bunch of stuff I didn't like that much because it spaced out my "good" stuff (so I wasn't that girl wearing the pink dress every week) (here I'm thinking specifically of my hot pink sweater dress from Benetton. Yes, I had one. And I had hot pink shoes that matched. The 80s were a beautiful time).

I've pretty much given that up, and embraced wearing my "good" stuff more often – I would, genuinely, rather re-wear the same few pieces really regularly and really like them and feel good in them, than wear crap for the sake of greater variety.

And yet: I set foot into an outlet mall and I go mad, picking up this piece and this piece and this piece and this piece until I'm carrying great mountains of clothes into the dressing room. And then, if you're buying one $20 cardigan, why not get a second in another color? If you like it well enough to buy it in the first place? Even if it's not the world's most exciting cardigan? 

I was going to say, I suppose the answer is, don't shop in outlet malls (but the cheap! the cheap!). But even outside the outlets, the tyranny of choice can get overwhelming (I had a whole slew of tabs open with different retailers' websites earlier this evening). So maybe the answer is to learn to sew. (Seriously, I wish I lived somewhere you can walk into a shop and have someone make your clothes for scratch.)

 

Slightly random: do you thrift?

In the last year or so I've gotten into reading some fashion blogs, and many of the authors find amazing clothes in thrift stores. I am always amazed at this, because I really really dislike thrift stores. First, I just don't like the idea of wearing stuff that someone else has already owned, worn, and discarded – which is a bit odd, because normally I'm very dirt/germ-tolerant. But I'm also not a very touchy-feely person – unless you're my husband or massage therapist or a VERY close friend in a moment of high emotion, I don't hug/touch and I don't like to be hugged/touched (for instance, I can hardly imagine a job I would like less than massage therapist). So maybe wearing someone else's clothes is too close to being touched by another person, someone I know nothing about?

But I've also realized that I'm a sucker for shopping environment – store lighting, decor, styling, etc. When I face racks upon racks of totally varied stuff crammed together, usually in someplace kind of dusty and warehouse-ish with dingy linoleum floor, I cannot for the life of me see the potential of any given item in what I find to be such dreary circumstances. That's totally a failure of my own imagination, I know, and shouldn't be a reflection on thrift stores or items therein.

Thrifting always reminds me of my middle school/early high school years, when I'd just gotten old enough to care what I was wearing, but not old enough or savvy enough to know yet what looked good on me, or how to get past "needing" to wear the latest fad. My mom, being frugal, always liked to check out Marshalls and TJMaxx before buying stuff at full-price stores. And I could NEVER find ANYTHING I liked there. Everything looked horrible. And the stores themselves were depressing places, filled with fluorescent-lit glare and the dreary dregs of the fashion world.

I'm sure most of that was about teen angst and insecurity rather than anything to do with Marshalls or TJMaxx. I know that Marshalls/TJ's are not the places to go if you have a specific item you need for a specific date – they're the kind of places you need to check into regularly, to see if there are any amazing bargains (and I do pop in to those stores from time to time, though not usually for clothes). But still, they left a bad taste in my mouth. And that seems to have transferred over to thrifting.

That said, a lot of people find a lot of amazing things at thrift stores. A dear grad school friend found her conference interview outfit at a thrift store for $3 – not a suit, but a lovely camel-colored wool jumper/sheath (it buttoned up the front, but was fitted, not baggy) with a cream blouse underneath and a water-color-y kind of scarf. A law school friend found a gorgeous pair of herringbone wool pants for something like $4. So I'm sure I'm missing out – and it may be that I just haven't found the right places to go. But while I envy/admire those who do it, I still can't get into thrifting.

Do you thrift? Why or why not? 

Continuing on a theme from my last post…

Damn, I hate suits.

I have no real objection to the concept of suits – and they look totally adorable on so many of my (younger, thinner) classmates. But I find it almost impossible to find suits that actually look good on ME.

Recently, not long before I was set to travel for a moot court competition, one of my favorite suit purveyors had a sale. (Their stuff is fairly spendy at full price, but they have awesome sales.) And since I still hate all my suits, I thought I'd give some stuff a whirl. I ordered a charcoal lightweight wool skirt suit, a black lightweight wool skirt suit, and a black lightweight not-wool skirt suit. Unfortunately, I loved the black lightweight wool jacket, but the store had sold out of the skirt, so I couldn't get an actual suit, which is what I was looking for. I loved the charcoal skirt, but was iffy about the matching jacket. I thought the black lightweight not-wool skirt suit was fine (and the jacket has a very cute striped lining), so I kept that and took it to the competition. 

(It's probably worth noting that I was deciding all this about two days before I left, when I was also trying to learn/polish my oral argument and do a ton of other stuff, so I was a little crazed at the time.)

Of course, after wearing the damn suit all day for the competition, I discovered that: 1) the jacket and skirt were both boxier than I'd thought they were, and 2) the skirt pulled a bit more about the hips than I'd thought it would. So it was not the world's most flattering suit on me.* 

And just now, I packed up the other stuff to send back, and made the mistake of trying on the charcoal suit again. And deciding that I like it MUCH better than the one I kept and wore. 

Because I really can't afford to keep both suits (and don't need that many suits right now, since I won't start a real job till next fall, and even then I don't think I'm going to need to wear a suit very often). Grrrr. I hate suits.

     
     
*That said, I don't think ANY suits are especially flattering on me. Suit jackets are pretty much all designed to nip in at the waist, which sucks when, like me, you don't HAVE a waist, or, indeed, lean toward the apple shape. And most suit skirts are pencil-y, which I like as a professional look, but they don't look very good on the apple figure, either, because they just make you look widest in the middle. The concept of a pants suit is totally appealing, but for some reason, while I can generally pull off this store's pencil skirts not-too-terribly, their pants do not fit me at all.