I've always been a woman who took herself seriously. As an overzealous high school student, I applied to four Ivy League schools, only to not get into any.
But I kept on going. I got a decent education at a competitive university, minus the frills of a Harvard concentration.
I managed to leave college with a unique and stubborn determination, in spite of a crippling lack of certainty. I pushed forward. Because I knew that someday, my work ethic would land me somewhere I'd like to be.
Today, I work a job that I love passionately. I'm a workaholic journalist. I'm thinking of taking up pottery on the weekends because I find it hard to give myself a break.
Before I landed at my current position, I spread myself thin through several careers: a writer for a photography magazine, a copyeditor, even a theater teacher at one point. I'd grown accustomed to doing work after hours. I generally got along with my bosses.
But I noticed something when I started working at my current office. You see, I'm surrounded by smart, hardworking women every day now, all who take their work very seriously. Much like myself.
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And I dress however I want to. As long as there are no holes in unseemly parts of my wardrobe.
I've found a new freedom, dressing in an office with all women. And it's not because I had an unpleasant relationship with my former male co-workers.
I dressed to be taken seriously by the men in my office. And I consider myself a smart, ambitious woman.
I'd remind myself of a few things each morning, as I ran my fingers through my hair, too naturally frizzy to be brushed.
Don't dress too sexy, I'd say. You want to look credible.
Don't dress too young, I'd say. You want your voice to be important.
Don't dress too out-there, I'd say. You want to be respectable.
Don't dress too relaxed, I'd say. You want to look capable.
And, no matter what you do, don't dress too polished. It looks like you care too much.
I'd think, you want to look approachable enough for your high-power male boss, who may ask for your opinion someday.
I know that some might say, well, you should always dress for the job you want. It's your fault for letting them get to you.
But the field that I work in is still male-dominated. Most of the jobs I've wanted in life have been held by a man.
Today, as I write this, I'm certain that I look younger than I actually am.
I wear a white shirt with long sleeves. I wear a brown skirt and stockings. I've aged myself down with my pair of Chuck Taylor's.
Yet, I have the respect of my co-workers. (I think.)
I make jokes at work. I wear my hair in a ponytail. I also wear it down, and sometimes it evolves into a tangled mess.
But my colleagues and I still treat each other with a mutual sense of admiration. Even on rainy days that put us through a rough commute.
While I may not always be so lucky, I'm going to try very hard to bring all I've learned here with me into the future.
The first challenge is to dress how I want, regardless of who surrounds me.