Uncharted Territory – Style

Confidence is Key. One of the lessons I learned in undergrad is that sweatpants just don’t cut it, for me anyway. Style is something that is personal. It’s something that should fit your personality and fit the occasion. I learned this the hard way – from showing up overdressed for some occasions and woefully underdressed for other situations. It’s all a learning process – I’m not a fashion expert at all, but I am an expert in combating insecurities, accepting that sometimes I look foolish, and getting out of my comfort zone.

So if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m diving into the world of personal style and how it fits me. As I write this, I can’t help but laugh at myself for some of the previous fashion statements I’ve made that I thought were cool… But really, they were pretty bad. I was trying to figure out what worked for me by mirroring the style of people who I believed mastered style. Sometimes it worked  and other times I had to figure something else out. No matter how different the blues are, you can’t wear all blue… same goes for every color except black and white, but even those have to be the SAME black or the SAME white.

So what did I do after a couple years of trying to figure it out? I looked to a hero of mine – Andre Benjamin better known as Andre 3000. Not only do I have a great appreciation for his music, but I also respect his opinion on style. In an interview with Complex Magazine, Andre 3000 said, “Style is a feeling. And I mean, you can get caught up into chasing and pleasing other people, but you’ll feel like shit inside. You’ll do it for a while, and then you just say ‘you know what? I don’t feel that way’ and then you’ll just grab what you feel like and you’ll feel great.” So that’s what I did – I made some mistakes, I learned a few lessons, and I’ve figured out and still figuring out what makes me feel and look good.

Will I make more mistakes? Quite simply, yes. Does it matter all that much? Maybe on first dates, interviews, and in the workplace. Am I dressing for anyone but myself now? Not really. Earlier I was listening to Take Off Your Cool by Andre 3000 and Nora Jones, which prompted me to write this post. Be authentic. Make yourself happy sometimes. Try something new. Honestly, what do you have to lose? Enjoy some photos of my style over the years.

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A Reflection on Resilience

As of late, I’ve reflected on what I want my life to become. I come back to these moments whenever I have been drained by my work. I notice that I become more cynical about the world, more critical of others, and less inclined to believe that the work that I do matters. Whether you describe your connections to other people as spiritual, emotional, or something else, you may know the feeling of burnout… I’ve been tossing around the idea of living a “simple” life – Move abroad. Open up a small shop. Do that for the rest of my days after grad school. Simple is relative. So for me that would be simple, even with all the complexity that comes with that plan.

In August, I spoke with a great friend and mentor about my purpose – to help others build connections across differences (cultures, race, life experiences, gender, sex, diversity at large). Between then and now (April), I became lost in the work – unintentional about focusing on how my purposed informed my work and how my work created fulfillment for my. Trust me, this has happened more than I’d like. Developing resilience is a lifelong process. What comes to mind is the poem by which I live my life. Desiderata – a poem that has new wisdom to offer every time I read it, yet offers timeless nuggets of truth that ring true each day. “Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.” Nurturing that strength does not happen alone. It is the people around me who stand as lighthouses guiding me to shore, back to my purpose.

Though I will move abroad one day and open a haberdashery or a bread, cheese and wine shop in the south of Spain when I’m older, I intend to see my other goals to their end and live a life of purpose. The final line in Desiderata may be the most important, and that it a reminder of how special life can be and how beautiful the world is. “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

A special thank you to the Dr. Paul Hernandez, Dan Gaken, Dr. Denny Roberts, and the Leadership Institute family for reinvigorating my passion for our work.