I hate writing conclusions. When I was writing my MA thesis I panicked over my conclusion for a couple of weeks and then purposefully went to bed stressing out about it in the hope that my subconscious could work through it for me. (It did, actually, and I woke up and scribbled down my dream conclusion the next morning.) I’ve yet to have a similar fit of inspiration for writing out my concluding thoughts for a project that has been so meaningful and serves as a reminder of how much I — and my life — has changed over the past two and a half years. (In fact, if you want to see how my style has evolved through this blog, you can check out my Top Ten from Year One and my Top Ten from Year Two.)
I’ve transitioned from full-time grad student to full-time grad student and full-time mom. When we started this blog I was just barely into my second trimester of pregnancy with baby e. Now he’s an active, inquisitive toddler who can say “dissertation.” I’ve transitioned from coursework to being ABD (that’s “all but dissertation” for those of you with normal jobs). I tackled my comprehensive exams, wrote and defended a dissertation prospectus, and even turned in my first chapter draft. I’ve also transitioned from someone who worried quite a bit about how others in academia would perceive me to being someone who is much more confident in her own mind, her academic project, and her personal commitments. And, finally, I’m about to transition from being a mother of one to a mother of two. (And yes, I’ll come back to let you know that baby #2 has arrived.)
Perhaps this increased confidence can be seen in the outfits that have been my favorites from the past year. Half of my top ten are unapologetically bold in their color combinations. Gold and peacock; almost neon coral and purple; hot pink, mustard, and purple; magenta and coral. My personality is not naturally outgoing, bubbly, or bright, and wearing these colors does not make me confident. But they do serve to remind me that I can be mighty, not meek.
I think I also took more risks this year, breaking “rules” that had somehow embedded themselves in my psyche. Like…no flowers before February. Or horizontal stripes make you look wider. Or horizontal and vertical stripes should not be worn simultaneously. I love these outfits not only for their aesthetics, but because they represent me pushing myself to try new things…and then wear it in public.
I echo much of what S. wrote: some days this was a repository for thoughts and discussions that would have had few other outlets. On other days, it was just about wearing something that made me smile. And some days it was about trying out a trend, like tying a t-shirt into a knot or wearing a midi-length skirt. I actually have deep misgivings about experimenting with fashion trends…I worry that it breeds even more consumerist tendencies or that it makes me seem frivolous or too focused on fleeting ephemera rather than Very Important Academic Things. And while those concerns might be valid on some level, sometimes, for me, trying a trend — particularly when it just involves tweaking something I already own or thrifting a $3 skirt — is a playful gesture that can be healthy and even a tiny bit subversive in my Very Intellectual Life. Bet you didn’t know there was so much riding on that midi skirt, huh?
My final choice is less about the outfit itself and more about the motivation behind it and the discussion it prompted. Calling attention to something I’m highly self-conscious about — my asymmetrical face — opened up quite a floodgate of responses from you all. And I loved it. I loved how being honest with you about my insecurities could prompt some of you to reconsider your own perceived flaws. I loved stories of other asymmetrical faces, crooked fingers, bent noses, and two-tone eyes. Letting you see my weakness was, in the end, an incredibly empowering thing. It’s moments like those, when theory, practice, and faith intersect in meaningful ways, that have meant the most to me on this blog.
So thank you. Thank you for reading, for commenting, for being patient with how long it takes us to answer questions sometimes. Thank you for rejoicing with me in big life milestones, both personal and professional. Thank you for letting us know that you’ve tried out a new color combination for the first time or bought your first pair of brightly colored shoes or mixed patterns or developed a passion for belting. Thank you for being willing to engage in hard questions and in complicated issues.
And thank you, especially, to A., S., and L. for their friendship and collaboration over the past few years. The ability to work with you and to make something we’re proud of, together, has been a source of great joy.
P.S. For those who’ve asked, here’s what my wedding dress looked like. And yes, I look “so young” because this was, in fact, six and a half years ago.
P.P.S. My name is Elissa.