I have been getting a little “deeper” in my posts the last few weeks, and I think it is a byproduct of the journey I am on emotionally and mentally that comes along with not having my work to occupy my mind – and therefore more times than I would have in the past, it turns self-reflective. I see it as a solid way to make sure this time when I am on parental leave contributes to a positive transformation into a more balanced individual – especially when I go back to work one day in the future and have a family that I do not want to neglect. It is a healthy, good emotional journey, but that does not mean it is easy.
One things this journey does is bring me to terms with my past. I do not have a horrible past – we all have our baggage that we have to deal with which has shaped us one way or another, but I will not get into that type of “past” in this post. It is those things that turn into your “past” all of the sudden, without you even noticing it, just in the course of life. Life may be like a book with many chapters, but that does not mean those chapters have a clear end and start. So I have realized there are still things to let go of in order to walk forward clearly and so that I am giving myself room to grow as a father and husband. I think everyone has this, not just me – but maybe some people just never do a little “clean up”. And how did I get to this point? By donating some clothes.
Long ago (now 10 years ago, already), I had a clothing line. It was a custom menswear line, and I used my years of experience from the fashion industry to bring it into reality, at the urging of a celebrity friend of mine who helped me launch the line in coordination with the launch of his huge movie that summer. It was great to use my experience and education in this way, as my Bachelor’s degree comes in Apparel Design and Production, and my Master’s is in Textiles focusing on Masculinities and Social Psychology of Clothing.
Actually it was my clothing line that brought me to my Master’s degree. I had noticed that guys were asking me to make suits that “make my shoulders look more XX” or “make my hips look smaller.” To me this was special and interesting, because I had been working with women’s clothing and had been hearing those things for years from women, but did not expect it from men. So, I asked a former professor where to look for more insights on this and she put me in touch with a woman in California who had been studying that exact phenomenon – through a grant paid by the US Government.
So, off I was to California to study this topic, and be paid for researching this topic while I also had my education paid for – all while maintaining the clothing line. I will not get into details, but it was a fascinating time of my life, and I was able to do groundbreaking research and publish loads of information because nobody had ever studied it before. It also brought me all over the US and the world presenting the research. I love the apparel / retail industry and did not want to get stuck in the academic bubble, so I went back into the industry afterwards. I use that research every day when I work, and it is relevant regardless of gender or topic within consumer behavior – because to study men, you must study women (there was no consumer behavior research about men and clothing back then), so basically I have a strong understanding of consumer behavior that is transferable into real life.
Anyway, I had the clothing line that stopped when the big recession hit (nobody buys custom suits during a recession, even if they can afford it). So, for a while I had clothing of my own with my own label. And that means that I also have clothes of my own with my own label that are about 10 years old now. With the exception of 1 timeless suit, and a few shirts, I have not worn most of the items since then. It is time to let them go. Let them go to the 2nd hand clothing store, so someone who needs them will have them – maybe for a job interview, a wedding they are attending, or so on.
Longer ago (15 years) I was a fashion model – not the good looking Abercrombie and Fitch type of model, but the “editorial” type. The kind that people see in the magazines and say, “hmmm, that guy is weird looking.” Anyway, it was a cool experience for a few years, and it took me all over the world – mainly New York, Italy, Spain, and Greece. I really enjoyed that time of my life, but as you may not know, the pay is not good for guys in the modeling industry (one of the few industries where men make less money than women). I remember I did a 2-day job for Italian Elle magazine, and it paid 150 euro a day (back then the euro was equal to the dollar). Then, the agency in Italy takes 50%. The women in the shoot made about 10x as much and one was flown in from NYC. As a guy with an editorial look, the work is like this most of the time, and then eventually you will get a big job (campaign) that pays well. I was fortunate to do a campaign and to get some commercials to pay for things and keep me alive while I was doing it, but eventually I ended up in the same cities, doing the same things, and I was modeling to travel, so I said, “time to go back to school and move forward with life.”
Before I started modeling, I worked for a company whose owner told me, “go do it! You will have a job here waiting for you when you come back.” So I went back to work for her, and she also paid my tuition at school as part of our compensation agreement. I was super fortunate to have this – although I was working a minimum of 40 hours a week while going to school full-time, too. This is where my work-ethic stays. I cannot remember the last time I worked a 40 hour work-week. Maybe in the 90’s sometime when I was in high school and had a summer job.
When I was coming back to work for her after returning from Europe modeling, I had no money, but it was a place where you must wear nice clothing. And because of this, I had to go buy my clothes at the 2nd hand store. I was lucky to find pants and shirts to wear, and wore these at work for the first few months until my finances were sorted.
In letting go of these clothes, that are from my brand, with my name in the label, I am letting go of much more than garments. I am letting go of the past, and living more in the present and future. It’s not about forgetting the past – there is no reason to forget it. But it is about letting it go and not trying to inject it into the present. I guess my point is that there seems to be something good about learning from the past, letting it be wonderful, but not living in the past. If you do that, you try to live with the dreams of that past, instead of having flexible dreams and a present mindset. The “me” who was a model was not thinking about the “me” who is a husband and father.
So, the memories live, and the good ones stay strong, while the not-so-good ones lose power over time. The times that were hard are remembered only in a way to remind me of what I have overcome, and instead of being hardened by life, I can stay soft, like a rubber band – flexible and pliable to the needs of the present, so I can also look forward to a beautiful and positive future. Maybe this would not be so important to me if I did not have a wife and a child, but to me, being untethered by the past sounds like a good thing 🙂