Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Uniform: Being Proactive, not Reactive

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My last post talked about simplicity but I want to dig in a little deeper, and I want to show you part of what has become my "uniform." I also want to talk about how I stopped being reactive and how that's freed up a lot of mental bandwith.

Throughout my life I've dismissed the idea of a uniform as something for the uninspired, for the dull, boring, or for people who can't seem to get it together and are just hanging on by a thread. 

But I was completely wrong. I'll be the first to admit that I couldn't have been further from the truth. I've learned that many people including art directors, fashion bloggers, and even the president wear something like a personal uniform because they need the same thing I need, and that is enough mental energy to focus on what really matters. For me that is creating and building my freelance career. For them it could be managing a company or even running the country. 

As I've simplified my wardrobe I've settled in to what is now my own uniform: 

- a solid t-shirt with a good drape
- a pair of higher waisted jeans or A-line skirt
- comfortable high quality flat shoes so I can run with the boys while shooting street style
- a structured leather bag
- vintage turquoise pieces, or my gold bangles, or earrings, usually not all at once. 

It's all purchased in the same monochrome color palette with pops of blue and silver and you can mix and match everything. On top of this I add in manicured nails (I do them once a week in a color scheme that fits), simple makeup (the same face every day), and a great haircut. Because as a redhead it's all about the hair. 

Having a set uniform is just one of the many ways that I've tried to stay proactive and not reactive. What this means is that I make decisions about where I spend my time based on my goals and not on what's crying out for my attention, because 95% of the time what wants my attention is not actually where I want to put my attention. The world won't end if I decide to focus on editing photos or emailing a pitch for an hour or two instead of responding to the flurry of whatsapp and kakao messages on my phone or the dozen emails I wake up to every morning.

Beyond this, I've learned something valuable in the last six months that has changed how I live. Here it is: 

The work you do on the big projects, the ones you really want to accomplish and feel most satisfied with, is often invisible to the untrained eye. You need to make space for this work and you must make peace with the idea that often it will go uncounted for in life's daily to-do list.

Once I realized this I was able to settle into the idea that I'd have to carve out space to do the work that no one else could see regardless of whether or not I could justify the time or produce measurable, quantitative results. As a teacher it's been all about  measurable goals for the last half decade, and I admit they do have their place, but sometimes the real work is simply deciding to process photos differently and taking the time to attempt a new style. Sometimes you shoot photos that won't ever see the light of day. When you do not demand results from your work there is room for failing which is an essential part of growing. And you learn that the work itself is the end goal and this provides a certain type of stamina.

I want to close this out by saying one thing: I don't think there's anything wrong with dressing creatively, or wearing wildly different things, especially because without the interplay between people, fashion, and daily wardrobe I would be out of a job. I still love to dress up, look at the gorgeous things coming out from designers all over the world, and play with new fits and styles - I do it when I'm able. But on a daily basis, on workdays, which can be seven days out of seven some weeks, having a uniform makes my life easy. 

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Jeans: Cheap Monday
Jacket: Thrifted
Shirt: Indiebrand
Shoes: Birkenstock
Backpack: Low Classic


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