With no permission from me, 2018 licensed itself as The Year of Risk and that includes fashion risks.
Valentine’s Day is behind us. Lent has become and Easter is near. Baseball season is underway. The cherry blossoms have begun to bloom. All of this means one thing: Spring is in the air!
This week I’m taking a cue from the cherry blossoms and brilliant blue skies to play with spring outfit ideas incorporating florals and stripes. And because I’m looking for a few new pairs of casual, mom-friendly shoes to fold into my wardrobe, I paired everything with sneakers. The combinations turned out to be quirky, but also fun, flirty, cool, and comfortable, so I think the risk paid off.
(Photos and links to similar items to those I’m wearing are at the end of the post.)
But fashion risks are easy. Other risks are hard. Top of mind for me lately are the risks I take every day, blogging. If you’ll bear with me through a very personal post, I’ll explain what I mean.
Recently, a friend shared with me that a handful of people she surveyed about me and Present Perfect said they found my posts unrelatable, particularly on social media. Me and my life, they said, appear to be a little too perfect and not quite real. She suggested helpfully that I try to be more vulnerable “like Chrissy Teigen”.
I listened to her, asked a few questions, answered a few more, and allowed her feedback to sink in. As it percolated through me, myriad emotions, questions, concerns, and ideas bubbled to the surface. For two weeks, I’ve been cycling through a litany of emotional states: grateful, hurt, defensive, embarrassed, discouraged, encouraged, angry, hopeful, depressed, and inspired. Here’s why:
Present Perfect has served me in many powerful ways, the most valuable being clarifying what I’m most passionate about, which is writing. I love fashion, photography, painting, and all the other things I’ve featured on this blog. But writing is the thing I can’t not do.
This alone – discovering my true passion – is a small miracle, given how confused I was when I started Present Perfect. I still don’t know what kind of writer I want to be, but I’m okay with that. There’s a deep and broad world for me to explore as a writer and I’ve only just begun exploring it, in part because of this blog. Present Perfect leads me down a circuitous and unknown path, but I believe it is helping me as a human and as a writer.
With that being said creating Present Perfect is incredibly challenging. For two years, I have poured my heart and soul into this endeavor. I am the CEO, Editor in Chief, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Director of Photography, Publicist, Model, Producer, Creative Director, and more. I am the sole employee. I do it all myself.
There are days when I feel really, really low, convinced I’m wasting my time with a pet project on the fast track to failure. Sometimes I’m stupefied to the point of tears with technical challenges; I try to make sense of unfamiliar jargon and end up getting buried deeper and deeper in the weeds in the process. Once or twice, I was so heavily burdened by my own lack of faith, confusion, and frustration, I cried myself to sleep. I’ve asked myself a hundred times if starting the blog was a good idea and I’ve considered quitting at least a dozen.
Navigating the art of successful social media marketing has it’s own unique challenges, too. I’m as much of a novice in this area as I am in fashion, styling, photography, and SEO. Most of what I know I’ve learned through trial and error. My modest following is downright pitiful by Big Blogger and even Average-Joe Millennial standards, but it represents a lot of hard work, so it’s meaningful to me, even if it isn’t impressive to anyone else. This leads me back to my friend’s feedback and my ability or lack of ability to be “relatable”.
Truth? I’ve pushed dirty dishes and unfolded laundry out of the frame to make a prettier picture. I’ve removed blemishes from my chin, softened wrinkles in my neck, worn false lashes, and tidied up an otherwise cluttered bathroom before taking it’s picture, all for the sake of a few likes and a new follower or two on instagram. I try to put my best foot forward on social media and the blog in the same way I would for a job interview. I may polished-up what I let you see from time to time, but it’s still me and it’s real.
Every time I write a post or publish a photo, I offer a piece of myself to the people who will read it and look at it. Sometimes I offer a sturdy, secure, or superficial part of myself. Sometimes I offer a fragile and tender part of myself. The first offering risks a little and the latter risks more, but it’s always a risk. Every single time I publish something online or on social media, I invite strangers and friends alike into my private world and lay myself open to be judged and criticized.
This, by the way, doesn’t account for the humiliating indignities I experience in the creation process. Last month, while taking photographs on a street corner, a man driving by rolled down his window to mock me by shouting, “selfies are the future!” (It’s okay to laugh. It’s pretty funny. But also pretty mean.) While taking a photo on a bridge over a freeway for this post, six semi-trucks honk-hooooonked at me while roaring by, just to watch me startle and jump a foot.
Present Perfect asks for a staggering amount of my time, energy, and dignity. I am judged, rejected, and harassed by people I’ve never met (and a few I have) in small ways on a daily basis. Earlier this week I lost a whopping nineteen followers on Instagram after I posted a “Monday Admission” that I don’t like to wash my hands after using public restrooms. (Confusingly, the same post received an entirely different response on Facebook.) If Present Perfect flops, it will leave a public, permanent memorial to my failure behind. This entire blog and everything connected to it is a colossal risk.
So, why do I do it? Why take the time to write a blog that features outfits, styling tips, beauty products, and all the other things I feature on Present Perfect that require almost no writing expertise instead of concentrating on writing, contacting publishers, and building a future for myself as a writer? I’m asking myself these questions often lately. I don’t know what place blogging has in my future. I only know why I’m blogging now..
I blog because I want to connect with likeminded women and share a little bit of what I’ve learned in case I have something other women need or want, whether that’s something as unimportant as the name of a good face wash or something as important as comfort in a time of grief.
I blog because I want to curry the favor of enough followers to keep writing, build a body of work, and earn a teeny-weeny bit of money.
I blog because it’s fun and challenging and pushes me to grow and improve and learn.
I blog because it’s scary and I’m afraid and I don’t want to live in fear of rejection and failure.
I blog because, on my best days, I know I’m loved and I’m safe; these risks can’t hurt me in ways I can’t recover from.
I want to be relatable. I wouldn’t have started Present Perfect if I didn’t. Learning that I’ve struck some people as ungenuine hurts because I place a high value on being honest and authentic. But I’m also glad for the feedback because I want to continue growing. I’m my friend’s input to heart and doing what I can to convey the message I want to convey with integrity, dignity, and authenticity, in accordance with my conscience and to the best of my abilities.
I’m reminded by a quote by Leo Buscaglia’s grandmother from a previous post: “You need to decide what you’re going to be. Are you going to be an apple, an orange, or a pear? Whatever you decide, be the best apple, orange, or pear you’re going to be. But remember: no matter how good you are, some people just don’t like apples, or they don’t like oranges, or they don’t like pears. That’s life.” No matter how hard I work or how vulnerable and transparent I make myself, no matter how perfect or perfectly imperfect my photographs may be, some people will never relate to me.
Present Perfect is an intimate part of me and a catalyst for me to evolve into a more whole, fearless, humble version of myself, but it doesn’t define me. Chrissy Teigen can only be Chrissy Teigen. I can only be myself. It will have to do.
Thanks for indulging me and thanks for reading,
If you’re still in the mood for fashion after all that, check out these great spring wardrobe items: