As you can see from the tags, this is a rather meandering post. But I promise there’s a point!
I’ve never fit into boxes. I hate being asked to categorize myself. I’m that person who always needs or wants to provide qualifications when answering a multiple choice or yes/no question. I’m neurotic and easygoing. I love mixing feminine pieces with more architectural ones. I’m the person who can see where everyone is “coming from” when there’s discord. And in the wise words of Jimmy Buffet, indecision may or may not be my problem.
This has been particularly annoying career-wise. I like thinking analytically and creatively. I like working alone but being part of a team. I don’t like change, but I get bored easily and need new challenges. I’m passionate about too many disparate things and my teenage dream of uniting them all by becoming a journalist went the way of, well, print copies, long-form essays, and in-depth research after the invention of Twitter. I get fired up about everything from science communication to interior decor, biostats to rhetoric, endocrinology to haute couture. In parallel universes, I am a biomedical researcher, probably of PCOS or nutrition (the legit version); I’m a science/health communicator and patient advocate; I’m an intellectual property lawyer using my training to advance human rights; I’m a Kelly Wearstler; I’m a Martha Nussbaum; I’m a Robin Chase.
In this reality, I’m pulled in too many directions to commit myself to any one path and while I hope that makes a Steve Jobs out of me, I worry that all I’ll achieve is mediocrity. This blog is about the only place it’s acceptable to focus my attention on all of these things, and even then, it’s not how you monetize a blog (which isn’t my goal, but it is presumably evidence that you’re doing something right).
One thing that’s certain is that my heart has always beat harder when I’m looking at pretty things. At age 12ish, I was a zealous devotee of the Style Network when it was available on basic cable for that hot minute. I get butterflies and actually feel sort of lovesick when I watch a J Mendel/Alexander McQueen/etc. runway show. But when I was younger, I always felt that pursuing aesthetics was wrong of me because I’m smart enough that I should be able to help people. Plus, it seemed too risky. And, at least from the outside, those industries seem to be dominated by caricatures of human beings. There’s definitely a lot wrong with the practices and methods of the fashion and beauty industries. Better to forget all that nonsense and get a J.D., right? Wrong.
My gut has had no idea what it’s doing since college, but it was definitely anti-law school when the time came. I usually have impressively mundane or nonsensical dreams, but when I was applying to law school, I started having a recurring nightmare in which I was below deck on some kind of ship and a gigantic whale would swim by my portal and give me a weary look with its big, knowing, human-y eyeball, then it would breach and smash the ship. So yeah. I should get a t-shirt made that says, “I applied to law school and all I got was this whale phobia.”
Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m out of excuses and I owe it to my creative side to give it a chance at the wheel, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I’ve been reading about and pondering color palettes, interior design, and jewelry design. I’m interested in using 3D printing for aesthetic stuff, and want to learn CAD to help prototype pretty things. I’m also determined to actually make something out of that fabric I bought six years ago, dammit.
But, hell, even with regard to my own color palette, I had a hard time finding a box to call home. The last time I had to renew my passport, the entire post office got in on trying to define my hair color and eye color. Except for the end of summer, I’m so pale that I’m practically translucent. I also have really sensitive skin and can’t wear makeup with chemical SPF (sunscreen), so I have to go the sunblock route, which either involves zinc oxide at the beach for a haunting Casper glow, or loose mineral powder for daily wear. I can’t seem to find a mineral powder for blue-pink people that’s pale enough, but my skin tone is decently neutral, so often I fake being warmer in Natural Ivory and hope I don’t look too jaundiced. I can almost pull it off because I have red (and blonde) in my (brownish) hair, and I have freckles that start out medium brown and fade to a sand color.
I had huge streaks of platinum blonde in my hair as a kid and my tans (back when I spent enough time outside to get them) looked more like giant, old bruises (they had a bluish-purple cast) than golden sunkisses. Peach blush makes me look like a bad mortician got hold of me and everything that’s more yellow or orange than rosy or neutral just sits on my skin.
As for my eyes, they can look green, blue, gray, or some combination thereof, but never golden-green. Too many people have tried to convince me that “hazel” means green crossed with either blue or yellow, but I’ll be damned if they’re putting hazel down as my eye color on my driver’s license again. The outsides of my pupils are rimmed with pine green and the insides have lime green flecks.
Everyone wants me to be a Spring so badly because of the red in my hair and the freckles, but I look dreadful in coral and yellow golds. After years of ambiguity, I buckled down and re-re-reevaluated and determined that I was right to think I’m a “Summer.” I gravitate toward all things aqua and I’m definitely a cool, dagnabbit. I love summer’s vibrant purples, too, but I feel funny wearing them because I think they clash with the red in my hair. To the extent that one can tell the true coloring of a professionally-styled celebrity, I’d say mine is similar to Olivia Wilde’s, Ellen Pompeo’s, or Emma Stone’s.
Anyway, back to the boxes. The nice thing about feeling at ease in your various boxes is that some of life’s figuring has already been done for you by other people who are or have been in those boxes. That’s not to say the courses they’ve charted are necessarily easy, but if, for instance, you want to become President, you go to Ivy Plus schools, you get a law degree, you run for Senate, and so on and so forth. Or if I had a celebrity twin with rockin’ style, it’d take that much less of my brainpower to look awesome because I could just knock off her looks. But if you feel like the kid the Sorting Hat spit out… not so much.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, you’re probably wondering why on earth I’m talking about all this. Well, I guess part of it is that I’m hoping some kind soul will be able to point me toward an affordable mineral powder that won’t make me look undead. But mostly, I’m doing a lot of soul searching, trying to figure out what comes next for me and my barely categorizable self. After a rough couple of years (especially this last one), the prospect of getting a whole new chapter right feels pretty daunting sometimes. It’s a bit like that one Doctor Who episode with the leaf and the infinite possibilities.
I happened to have found some of my mom’s old books on seasonal color analysis and such. Starting with figuring out how to define myself that way seemed doable. Now that I’ve done it, it’s time to tackle the next question. I hope that adding up all the little pieces of me (great, I just got “Teenage Dream” out of my head and now I have Ashlee Simpson in there) will lead me to wherever it is that I’m supposed to be headed. So even though it’s silly, I guess I’m just excited that I’ve got one more box checked than I used to.
But seriously: Pale girl with neutral-to-blue undertones, rosy overtones, seeks affordable mineral powder. Send help.
UPDATE: Or am I a Bright/Clear Winter? I never thought, with my hair color, that I could be a Winter, but it’s the only “clear” option for cool folks and the more I think about it, the more I love the palette. I guess the lesson here is never stop learning and growing!