Unless you’re blind, you’ve undoubtedly noticed my lovely picture at the top of this blog, in which I’m wearing a leather jacket. What you don’t know, however, is that this leather jacket has a story behind it. Buying that jacket marked an incredibly important moment in my life – it sparked an epiphany, an awakening of sorts, a realization so profound that I dare say it changed my life forever. It was a rite of passage, a moment of transition, an a-ha moment, a face palm moment and a “derp” moment all rolled into one. To me, this jacket is almost magical. In order to explain why this is so, I’ll have to give you a bit of history:
A brief history of my awkward youth:
I was born a happy, shiny, puppy child. I had no fear of strangers (truly, my mom told me I would just have gone along with anyone), shared freely, loved openly and beamed my smile at everyone I came across. But, I was also incredibly sensitive and when I became a teenager, my demeanor changed drastically. First of all, I was taller than almost all the other kids (I’m 5’8″ or 172cm, which isn’t huge, but I’ve been that height since I was 12). I was chubby (later, I was severely overweight). I had no coordination or balance and was incredibly uncomfortable in my own body. And, having switched countries (Germany to the US) and finding myself in a foreign environment that I didn’t really fit into (even once I’d learned the language), I had developed a rather severe case of shyness. In high school, I was the artistic, smart, shy dork who tried like hell to blend into the background and stay out of the line of fire. Yeah, I know… hard to imagine looking at me now, but true.
So there I was, introverted, feeling like the ugly duckling, with no faith whatsoever that I’d ever turn into a swan, but dreaming of being one of those amazing looking women I saw in Magazines. This was the late 80’s and early 90’s and it was the time of the Supermodel (back when that actually meant something). Christie Brinkley, Elle MacPherson, Brooke Shields, Cindy Crawford, Eva Herzigova, Claudia Schiffer and Kathy Ireland graced the covers of countless magazines and became the role models for a generation of girls (and the stuff of dreams for a generation of boys…) These women were beautiful, graceful, sexy, confident, styled, thin (but not anorexic looking. These were women!), athletic looking, adored (at least publicly) and cool. In short, they were everything that I felt I was not. I felt like an awkward, bumbling, ridiculous, Godzilla like creature most of the time and I dreamed of the day, someday, when I would also be beautiful and cool and have my shit together. I saw myself wearing jeans that miraculously fit and made my stomach look flat and my butt look round (instead of the other way around). My makeup would be perfect (I was still into blue eye shadow and pink lipstick back then), my hair sexy and shiny with lots of body, instead of the frizzy permed mess I was sporting (it was the 80’s. Stop judging me.), and somehow, miraculously, I’d have mastered the art of accessorizing (I’ll just say one word: Madonna. The “Like a Virgin” version. I’m not proud of myself, but it’s the truth). And I saw myself wearing a cool, brown, leather bomber jacket.
This was the fantasy I whipped out whenever I got too down on myself, which was pretty much every day. I was a teenager, after all. It wasn’t just about the looks, though. It was about who that person was, who I wanted to be. That woman had it all. She walked with confidence, laughed easily, always had something clever or funny to say, never felt awkward and oh yeah, she turned men to butter with the bat of an eyelash. She genuinely liked herself. She felt comfortable in her own skin. She knew her own worth and didn’t really care what others thought of her. She was adventurous and fun and smart and funny. The world was her oyster. She was just plain awesome.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago. If you’ve ever been to my About page, you’ll know that I’ve lost a shitload of weight. According to the Encyclopedia that I just made up, a shitload is about 100 pounds. When you lose that much weight, there comes a time (at several points, actually), when you need to buy some new clothes. At first, I’d only buy what I absolutely needed to. I hated clothes shopping. If you’d given me the choice between ramming bamboo shoots under my fingernails and going clothes shopping, I’d have had to think about it (unless it was swim suit shopping, in which case I’d have gone for the bamboo. Every time.) It was torture and only ever served to highlight how horribly inadequate my body was. But as time passed and I began to feel better about myself (which caused the weight to come off, the sequence is important, but that’s for another time), my shopping experiences changed. I no longer had to go to plus sized stores or visit the women’s section to buy my clothes. I was able to wear stuff that was actually stylish. Jeans looked good on me, even without a tent like shirt to go over them. I began to look at clothes and shopping in a whole new way.
So there I was one day, happily trolling for fashion bargains, when I came across this Leather Jacket. It stopped me in my tracks. It was a cool, brown, bomber jacket, just like Christie Brinkley would’ve worn. I remember it was August and it was incredibly hot. Normally, I wouldn’t have even considered trying on a jacket, but I had to give it a shot. Keep in mind that I live in Spain, where the average body type is quite different from mine. Even though stores generally have my size, this doesn’t mean that the clothes will actually fit me. Often, the distance between the waist and hips is much too short, the back of jackets and blouses too narrow, or everything just lines up wrong. It’s always a bit of a crap shoot. But I was enthralled. The sales girl, drawn by the gleam in my eye like a vulture to the last raspy breath of road kill, swooped in and began to show me the jacket, caressing its soft patina, pointing out the latches and pockets, the lining and label, the sheer f&%#ing awesomeness of it all. Oh my God. There it was. All of my teenage fantasies of what and who I’d like to become one day had somehow been boiled down to this one object: the perfect jacket.
I held my breath and tried it on. And… it fit like a glove. A leather glove. And when I looked at myself in the mirror, I had to work hard not to burst into tears. Because I realized that the person standing there, with her blonde shiny hair (courtesy of my hairdresser’s immense skill), her perfect makeup (I’ve learned a thing or two over the years), her easy smile, her confidence, and her funky and stylish accessories was the person that the teenage me had always dreamed of becoming. I was her, exactly as I’d always imagined. I liked myself. I knew my own worth. I didn’t take shit from anyone (especially not bullshit!). I was adventurous and fun and lived my life on my own terms. I had somehow, without noticing it, become the woman of my dreams.
You had the power all along, Dorothy
But I realized something else, as well, and this is the reason I’m sharing this experience with you today: I had always been her. I just hadn’t known it. I hadn’t changed who I was. Sure, I’d learned a few tricks about fashion and makeup and had grown out my bangs, but the person I was inside had never changed. All I had done was remove the layers that had been covering her up all along. The fear, the self loathing, the self-consciousness, the lack of self worth, the countless masks and defensive mechanisms I’d used every day to shield myself from being hurt or letting people see the real me. The smile that should’ve come easily, couldn’t shine through all those masks. I’d encased myself in a protective safe, only allowing people a glimpse of the person inside if they’d proven themselves trustworthy, and never giving anyone the full combination.
But over the years and as a result of a lot of this personal development work, I’d stripped away those layers. I’d taken off the masks. I’d become authentic, who I really was and always had been underneath. I returned back to that happy, shiny, puppy energy that I’d been born with. And that’s who I saw staring back at me in the mirror that day. The real me. The fearless me (I still feel fear, I just don’t let it stop me). The cool me. Putting on that leather jacket only made me realize it, but she’d been in there all along. I’d been there all along. I just had to see it.
So, for all of you who look in the mirror and wish that you could see someone else, know that the person you want to see is in there, and has been there all along. You just have to realize it. Perhaps there’s an object you used to fantasize about, which represented this person. For a friend of mine, it was a pair of sneakers. This isn’t about success, wealth, or even physical beauty. It’s about a feeling, a realization, an acknowledgement of who you really are and who you have always known yourself to be. Go out and get that object. Wear it or carry it and look at yourself in the mirror. See how it feels. Step into the energy of your own worth. Be cool. Be hot. Be awesome. Be YOU.