In an alternate universe, I’m pretty sure I’m wearing overalls right now. Or swoveralls, which are a delightful mash-up of sweatpants and overalls. I recently heard about this magnificent combination and I have to actively force myself NOT to purchase a pair or several of them. I know they would almost definitely look hideous on me, but I also know that I would love them and wear them as often as I possibly could. And that is probably not a good idea. Right? Can I be living my best life if I’m wearing something utterly unflattering? I will have to seriously ponder that. I used to wear overalls all the time and I LOVED them. “Like wearing a hug,” I would say. “With so many pockets and a hammer holder!” But I’ve seen photos, and I will admit it wasn’t a great look on me. And the hammer holder feature proved useless for my lifestyle. I rarely carry hammers and it did not turn out to be good for the hands-free transport of a full, or even half full, wine glass. Plus, nearly every boyfriend I ever had, including both of the ones I married, told me that they looked terrible on me and asked me to please not wear them so often. To be fair, I did wear them reaaaallly often, pretty much anytime I wasn’t at work. So eventually I begrudgingly stopped sporting overalls and switched to other comfortable and slightly less shapelessly unflattering clothing. My current comfort uniform is a pair of camouflage capri pants, topped by one of my large assortment of soft t-shirts that say things like ‘Vegas!’ or ‘Pardon My French’ or ‘Having Fun Isn’t Hard When You Have a Library Card’ or ‘Don’t Get Upsetti, Eat Some Spaghetti’ (yes, these are all actual shirts I own). While it is not the most glamorous look, I do not look as amorphous as I did in my sweet sweet overalls. I guess that’s an improvement. It’s unlikely that I’ll win a Best Dressed award (is that a thing?) but thankfully, the show What Not to Wear isn’t on anymore, so at least I don’t have to worry about being nominated, then secretly filmed as I walk out of the grocery store looking mortifyingly unfashionable while quickly scarfing down secret M&Ms that I do not wish to share with my children.
Do you ever think about the life you would have had if things had gone a differently at one of your crossroads? Sometimes I like to think about where I would be and what I’d be doing…and wearing, which (as I said earlier) is probably overalls or swoveralls.
In the summer of 1995, I was living in Boston and my boyfriend of 3 years had been accepted to graduate school in Austin, Texas. He asked me to move there with him, but I really loved Boston and I’d just applied for a supervisor position at my college’s library, where I worked with two of my best friends. This job had the very nice benefit of paying for one class of graduate school in library science per semester. I knew that the librarian life was for me! It was what I wanted with all my heart and soul. I thought I would miss my boyfriend, but we’d already had a long distance relationship while we were in colleges in different states and that worked out well for me, because I was and still am an introvert who cherishes my own space and alone time. So I applied and got into the graduate program…but I didn’t get the job. Such a disappointment! Cue the sad trombone. Who is to say why the hiring committee didn’t think I’d make a great supervisor? Perhaps it was because I occasionally sang over the library intercom system at closing time. Or maybe it had something to do with the time there had been a picture of me on the front of the B section of the Boston Globe, feeding ducks in the Public Garden on a day when I had called in sick. It’s possible that it was because I’d encouraged my friend to photocopy her butt on the library copier. It is accurate to say that I was a flaky little goofball at 23. Today I would probably not hire my then-self. Or at least I would sit her dumb ass down and tell her to shape up and curb her foolishness in the workplace.
If I’d gotten the job, I had a plan for my life. I wanted to rent a cozy studio apartment near my library and fill it with books and lots of comfortable pillow on which to lay against while reading. I wanted to go to museums and wander Boston and hang out with my friends. I also really wanted a smoosh-faced, curly-tailed pug dog to love. I did not need or want a car, because the public transportation in Boston is good, while driving and parking in Boston is one of Dante’s levels of hell.
If I’d lived that life, I can’t imagine what my world would be like now. It would surely be different from what I envisioned, but I can’t see how it would be anything like my life today. I would probably not have married (and divorced) that grad student boyfriend, the way I eventually did, as he was not as happy with a long distance relationship as I was. And it seems impossible that I’d have met my second husband, which would have spared me a second divorce, but would also not have produced my children. Would I be a car-less, child-free librarian who spent a lot of time reading and going to museums and hanging out with friends and my dog in that life? Would I wear overalls and swoveralls and not care what anyone had to say about it? Maybe.
In real life, I visited Austin with my boyfriend. I went to BookPeople and Barton Springs. I ate a Big As Yo’ Face Burrito at Chuy’s and drank copious amounts of frozen margarita. And I said, “I could try this place for a while.” That was almost exactly half my life ago, ’cause I never left. Austin is the only constant I’ve had in a life that didn’t turn out even remotely the way I expected it to. The only thing I know for sure in life is that you can’t predict the future. You can want what you want and hope for things and prepare for them the best you know how to, but there will always be surprises and you may have to change course. Luckily, it seems we are made to be resilient and resourceful. Good news, y’all! I can tell you from experience that if you have a major change of course, it is likely that you will find a way handle it and you’ll be ok. Take it from me. I’ve changed course more than once and I’m A-OK! Hell, why be modest? I’m slaying on a daily basis! Sure, my life may not align with someone else’s picture of success, but I know where I am and where I cam from and I feel pretty good about it. It’s all about perspective.
But sometimes, in the midst of all the chaos of being a single parent caring for three young boys and a crazy (non smoosh-faced pug) dog and a life where I always seem to be rushing, I think about my quiet, calm alternative life. In my head, I go to my little apartment and lean against my pillows and read with my snoring pug. Maybe I could make a life like that when my kids are grown up? I know that I can’t predict what will happen, but it seems like a nice possibility. I’m ok not knowing at this point and I’m not ruling anything out. No matter where life takes me, I am absolutely certain that I’ll need comfortable things to wear. See you soon, swoveralls!