Like many professional folks, COVID forced me to become a virtual employee.  I went from taking the Metro to Washington, DC every day, to mostly not leaving home for anything to do with work.  And like everyone I enjoyed the humor in finding the human behavior in our new environment of video/Zoom calls.  

It was rare that we went more than a couple of days without hearing about some lawyer in their boxer shorts, forgetting they were on camera and standing up.  Or worse.  We know it was much, much worse.  I am grateful to not have been at the heart of any such mistake.  Heaven knows I was not always camera ready.

As we spent months and almost two years working in some form of virtual environment, our wardrobe choices were heavily influenced.  Suddenly, I could wear sweats or jeans on the bottom, with a blouse and a sweater, or blazer on top.  

I spent less time on my appearance than ever before.  I could extend the number of days I didn’t wash my hair, since I was barely out of the house.  I saved money on dry cleaning because I literally stopped wearing anything that I could not hand wash or press by myself.  I also saved money on shopping, since I wasn’t walking by stores like Ann Taylor as part of my daily commute.

I don’t know how this work apparel cultural shirt affected others, but for me it just seemed like a relief.  There were times I felt like a total rebel sitting in meetings with my pink fuzzy slippers on my feet, and draw string Nike sweatpants on my lower body.  I noticed this feeling of “breaking” the perceived rules and how much I enjoyed it.  Sounds kind of pitiful now, but at the time I was truly struggling to find any redeeming quality of a given work day stacked with 8-12 Zoom meetings per day.

Fast forward, to now rounding the corner of this two year Pandemic.  So much has changed.  I actually retired over the Summer so now I can wear whatever I want.  I still don’t have a significant dry cleaning bill, I spend no money on commuting and this too, makes me feel like a rebel.  Decades of professional dress codes are now behind me.  It feels so decadent and indulgent to wear what I feel like wearing without much consideration for what the day holds.

But yesterday, I was feeling especially rambunctious!  I went out for my morning walk even thought it was grey, cold and raining.  As I put my sneakers on, I realized my socks didn’t match.  One was a Nike running sock, and the other was a cute sock from Bombas (click here for link, as an aside anything you buy will be matched in a donation for those in need, can’t resist supporting this amazing company!)

Noticing my socks did not match, was not the impetus for me to grab a pair that did.  Typically that would be an opportunity to course correct, before anyone noticed.  But not yesterday.  I just tied my sneakers up over two socks that were completely different.  When I went outside, it was raining and there were puddles everywhere.  As I looked at my feet, I carried this warm (“you’re such a badass”) feeling that washed over me when I thought about my socks and how they didn’t match.  I took this as a chance to recognize how “far I have come” in an effort to be less rigid about my appearance.

I don’t think I will go out of my way to wear socks that don’t match (although this is certainly a teen sensation at the moment) but I will carry the feeling of being rebellious.  What is it about going against the norm that feels so damn good?  Why does breaking the rules (even little ones that no one notices) bring so much energy to an otherwise flat situation?  I might as well have been skipping school, playing hookie from work or drinking wine before it was “5 O’Clock” somewhere.  It felt fun, secret and put a pep in my step.  I smiled during each stride as I acknowledged that I was dressed a little like a misfit.

When we are used to a rigorous, rigid and demanding schedule, that never seems to stop for a breath, we learn to become efficient time management experts.  We lean on systems (behavioral algorithms that we install to make sure everything gets done) more so than free will.  We don’t wonder what we should be doing, since we are always already committed to doing something.  And as tasks, days and months are completed and become part of history, new challenges, projects and opportunities arise so we are never “off the hook” to comply.

I lived that way for two decades trying to meet Zach’s needs, while working full time along with Zach’s Dad.  “Wash-Rinse-Repeat” was our mantra as time passed and we continued with the same habits, routines and schedules.

But COVID forced us to reconsider.  It forced me to take a step back and observe the systems I’d installed to make sure there was time for everything (and of course my own needs were NOT on the list of non-negotiables.)  Now, I marvel at the reality that before COVID hit, how productive and smoothly put together I was literally all the time.  Clothes were coordinated with shoes and accessories.  Travel was frequent and I could pack literally in about five minutes for a business trip.

Now, some of my systems are antiquated, and don’t fit my life anymore.  I don’t usually look around and think “Wow, I really kicked some ass in my profession, and its amazing how much I could accomplish in a 24 hour period.”  But I DO take notice of something like mis-matched socks.  Going against the “grain” just feels so liberating, even if I am the only one that knows! I love feeling like a rebel, even if it’s just changing up my clothes from the ankles down!

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