As I look back on my love of books, beauty, style, and learning, I see the continuous thread that runs through my life. There have been times when I have briefly lost touch with it, but always, always, I found my way back. I didn’t call out for these “loves;” they called out to me.
I grew up with very little and learned to feed my ravenous appetite for beauty by simply noticing it wherever it showed up. My First Communion shoes, white, glossy, patent leather, the yellow spike heels a neighbor wore with sass and abandon, the red shag carpet in the bedroom of my best friend. By the time I was 12, I understood that if I wanted to bring visual beauty into my life, I’d have to work for it. And work I did. My first purchase is forever emblazoned in my visual memory: bold, aztec print bell bottoms and navy blue clogs. I spent my junior high, high school and college years babysitting, tutoring, and selling Avon. I learned to be a thrifty and astute consumer at an early age. Over the years, I mastered thrifting, consignment, and later, of course, on-line shopping.
My pursuit of beauty was always personal and often therapeutic. I understood this about myself long before the idea of “retail therapy” entered our shared consciousness. Giddy shopping trips with my sister and my BFF aside, I never imagined sharing this love with anyone else.
But the “messages from the universe” kept coming. While building a professional wardrobe, a shrewd shopkeeper – who apparently kept an inventory of my purchases – dubbed me “The Girl with the Eye.” During a brisk walk to a work assignment on Madison Avenue, a woman stopped me and asked “Can you do that for me?” “Excuse me, do what?” At which point she looked me up and down and said “THAT, the whole look.” I smiled, thanked her, and went on my way. But the strongest message, and the one that shifted my thinking, is one I heard repeatedly while facilitating customer experience and leadership training around the country. Women of every age would often tell me that they wanted to share something with me. As a facilitator and coach with an MS in Counseling, my eyes, ears, and heart are always open…and they knew this. And so they would tell me how I had inspired them, that I was smart and stylish, proof that a woman could not only be so unapologetically, but blend the two in a way that was her own. I am paraphrasing, of course, but that was the essence. I never saw myself as a role model or a “fashion icon”; I was a woman making her way, keeping all of the balls in the air, trying to stay true to my values and to myself as I sought to contribute something through my work.
What I now understand is that the bigger “contribution” was being myself in words, deed, and yes, style.
The authentic self is the soul made visible.Sarah Ban Breathnach
Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.Coco Chanel
oh my darling, it’s true. beautiful things have dents and scratches too.writtenbyhim