In the past year there have been a lot of changes in my life. I decided to give up a decent, healthcare and dental coverage providing job in daily news to enter the uncertain world of freelance writing. I also hit an age where I'm significantly closer to the impending 3-0 then the 2-5.
It might not seem like much, but to take major risks at an age where it's expected you will "finally get it together" is a clock I hear ticking much louder then the usual ones assigned to women -- motherhood, marriage, and the like.
Along with the changing direction in my life I've noticed one other significant change - I have no idea what my "style" is anymore.
It might seem strange that this has stood out as a concerning factor but as Virginia Woolf said "vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world's view of us."
So what does losing my style actually mean?
My style history
I really started to figure out my identity when I was in about Grade 7, those young years where I was just hitting the double digits, having my first kisses, and cracking my first beers.
My older brother introduced me to the wondrous world of second hand shopping and my paper route and job refereeing soccer allowed me just enough spare cash to shop. I easily bought old band t-shirts, baseball t-shirts, federal park t-shirts, and of course the biggest bell bottoms I could find. After chopping my hair into a horrendous short spiked thing which had no real name, I found my style's home somewhere in the vintage-punk section.
As I got older I relied less on the pants and started to acquire a collection of more feminine vintage dresses, long lace shirts, and old leather boots. It was never straight forward feminine and I had my septum ring to reinforce that I was an "outsider" but as I became more comfortable being a woman - my style reflected that.
For around 15 years I woke up every morning, looked in my closet, and felt confident that I was creating an outfit which would allow me to fearlessly walk into any situation, whether at the coffee shop where I worked, the bar where I also worked, or an afternoon in the library with a good book. I received compliments, I was featured in Style sections of local newspapers, and I felt good.
And then it was gone...
After years slinging coffees and beers, travelling the world in a dusty pair of cowboy boots, and spending mothball filled afternoons in thrift shops I entered university.
With a huge amount of school work and work to pay my bills, my style started to fall by the wayside. I didn't really notice it as knitted hats became an everyday staple and giant sweaters (whether clean or dirty) covered the shirt I had slept in the night before. Four years later I had my degree and a joyous idea that I could discard the torn leggings and (hopefully) have a bit of spare cash to put towards unbleached clothing.
So entered life in a newsroom.
I was excited to put together my own office style and in the beginning thought about ways to wear my vintage t-shirts with high-waisted pants and one of my three blazers.
But as the years went on. I lost it. It was just gone.
I'd go into my closet in the morning and not see a single outfit that was appropriate for work, for coffee, or even for a night on the town. I had hangers of dresses and sweaters, drawers of pants and t-shirts, but nothing I could confidently wear.
How did this have a real impact? The insecurity in not really understanding my identity seeped into all aspects my life. Was my job a good choice? Did I ask the right questions? Do I fit in in this social situation? How do other people see me? These were all questions that for the first time in my life flowed through the cracks of my exterior adding a crushing weight onto my life.
I'm not saying this is all from the loss of style, but that maybe my loss of style was a symptom to a depletion of self esteem and self worth. If I didn't know who I was, how could other people be expected to take me seriously.
As a woman I have to work harder to prove myself, specifically in the news field, and even more-so in the heart of the Canadian prairies. I have spent so many years having to to prove that despite my "cute" dresses that I can ask the difficult questions and write the hard hitting pieces. It took a very long time to be "trusted" with business, economic, or political articles instead of the default of being sent to talk with "streeters" or check out the new store opening. I am proud of the work I have done.
But in fighting to fit into the "news" world, where an identity about who you are are or who are are supposed to be has been carved out for decades if not longer, I started to conform. I gave up my personal style because it was easier to just throw on the expected pair of blue dress pants and generic blouse and appease the status quo of what a "journalist" is supposed to be.
That acquiescence ran parallel in my writing. I gave up my personal voice and ideals of why I got into the field to pound out as many short, concise, articles with both opposing viewpoints as I could and to pick up my pay cheque and a bottle of wine at the end of the week. I stopped writing with any finesse. I stopped having fun writing. I no longer felt satisfied that what I did in a day was of any worth to the public, instead it was just filling space on a website or a time slot on air. I spent 50-hours a week working my ass off and didn't think the majority of what I did was actually that important.
So I left. I don't know what my style is but I'm pretty excited to find it. I don't know how to navigate this world of freelance writing yet, but I am pretty excited to figure it out.
In the end, that's the nice thing about losing your style, it means that it's another entire adventure finding a new one.
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada