Fresh Start

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Uncategorized
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The school year has just begun, one of my close friends is getting married in a week and a half, and against such backdrops I find myself thinking about beginnings.

I did quite a bit of shopping this late-spring and summer, primarily for clothes and beauty products. I had a specific look in mind. 


(The look: more Emmanuelle Alt, less E.T.)


I went through my closet. I ditched things. I bought new things. I kept asking myself, why was I even doing this? I live a happy life of jeans and T-shirts outside of work (and, well, once in a while at work), and I never had an itch for a pair of black D’Orsay stilettos like I did this summer. But, here I was, determined to take my somewhat-too-eclectic wardrobe and turn it into something more streamlined, professional, appropriate for a powerful single woman (who previously hadn’t been single for quite some time and thus was also trying to decide what that even meant).

Since I stopped subscribing to a couple women’s magazines, I haven’t really felt the strong pull of the aspirational item — you know, the piece of clothing or furniture or kitchen item that fits an idea of yourself… but that you don’t necessarily use. This was a bit different than that; and sure, some (maybe a lot) of it was retail therapy, treating myself to pretty things I wanted because I’d been through something, but I was really focused on getting things I would use and use a lot. And it wasn’t just about getting pretty things. When I asked myself why, I kept thinking about a fresh start.

The association of the action (buy stuff) with the motivation (fresh start) seems a bit incongruous on the surface; after all, doesn’t a fresh start normally mean primarily purging things, starting back at scratch with a clean slate — not adding things? But, there’s the rub: I’m living in the same city, where memories lurk in many corners; I’ve helped out my ex occasionally when he’s needed it; I’ve been working on moving on, but I couldn’t simply detox from all of it. It wasn’t going anywhere, and neither was I, so I just had to deal. I think that’s where the new things came in. The place may not be different, but am different, and I can point to tangible evidence like more grown-up fashion choices to prove it. And even though I am still that down-to-earth, T-shirted, be-denimed tomboy I have always been, I also for the first time actually feel like the woman who’s been stepping to the front of the college classroom with red lipstick on.

So, it’s not about square one so much as starting to operate on another plane. I was a runner before the breakup, but I’m gonna be a half-marathoner in a little under a month now. I was a grad student before, but now I’m an instructor without the “/student” part. It isn’t so much about exhuming the past as it is about asserting my identity as I continue traveling.

The effort of restyling myself, though, emphasized what I’ve known all along: there’s really no such thing as a fresh start. And it’s right that it should be that way, anyhow. After all, it’s because of J. that I notice the beauty of birds, just like it’s because of M. that I’ve seen New England and because of E. that I have a music library with lots of Billy Joel. Fact is, the people to whom we say “I love you” leave indelible marks. We don’t just “change out of them” the way we change our clothes. Some might be reminders of injuries, like any scars, but some of those marks are more like beautiful tattoos that we’ve carefully chosen to carry with us through life… no matter what costume changes we make.


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