Buying Jackets and Starting Over

Buying Jackets and Starting Over

My first jacket came in high school. It was dark blue with plaid lining inside, from a Tommy Hilfiger outlet. I didn’t really need to start over then, but it was freshman year, so if you don’t try and find your “thing” you’ll just drown. Or at least, that’s what I was told.

In late October of my senior year, I finally bought a new jacket.  It was from the Gap, on sale, a green bomber jacket (officially the contrast panel bomber jacket in black moss). This became my favorite jacket; it was warm, soft inside, and had a really cool zipper pocket on the front, so I could feel like a badass. Plus, people noticed that green brings out my eyes. Luckily, nobody noticed that I didn’t drop cash just to have my eyes noticed, but because I was floundering.

I was two months into senior year, when I should have been living it up. Instead, I was panicking about what I was going to do with my life. I was wondering why I hadn’t been on a date in three years. I was worried that my depression and anxiety was going to be noticed by someone I didn’t tell myself. I needed something fast to push me forward, to say that the way I was feeling was okay, and that I could start over and be stronger for it. And maybe in a subconscious effort to regain that freshness I felt getting that jacket in high school (or just to have someone tell me my eyes looked nice) I bought the green bomber, zipped it snugly, and pushed through the mess for a few more months, feeling stronger than I had the day before.

In June, I was living in a rented room in a frat house. I was a month out of school, but still working my job at my college. I was a theatre and English major, so no, the job market had not been the most kind to me (though I didn’t expect niceties, to be fair).  In about a week, I was going to start working at a camp; I like working at camps, but it felt different this year with all my friends having gotten professional internships, been accepted to prestigious programs and grad schools, or obtained the elusive “real world job.”

One day in June, I was wandering around a mall, telling myself that I’d be cold that night without a jacket, but I didn’t have time to go home and get my green bomber.  Really, I was just trying to distract myself from the fact that I was going to a friend’s birthday dinner, where I would reunite with all of those employed and happy and functioning people for the first time since graduating. It would be my first time since Irish goodbyes at most graduation events, since scrambling to pack and leave quick, to pretending I was coping well with graduating. That’s when I found my black jacket, 40% off. It was lighter than my bomber, better for summer nights when the wind outweighed the humidity, and for that night when my fear outweighed my excitement. So I tossed it on and restarted, ready to use it to keep me dry as I veered into the unknown that is post-grad life.

Last November, I moved back to Boston. I was going to start a new job, start a new internship, see a therapist, try and make close friendships all the more strong. Fast forward two months to mid-January, and I was unemployed, lost my internship before it even began, reeling from a breakup, on waiting lists for appointments, and I spent most of my time throwing my savings into Starbucks for a place to sit and scan for jobs, and to feel like I was actually surrounded by people.

It was too cold most days to wear the bomber or the black jacket, without feeling the inevitable freeze creep in through the sleeve. I would browse stores online, always ending at the jacket tab before closing the window, feeling apathy on my very best days. I finally found a new job, but somehow nothing felt new; I still felt the same chill every day. I was technically starting over but nothing had changed. Until this past weekend, when I happened upon a grey and black beauty.

In simplest terms, it’s an awesome color, it has a tough exterior but still has a soft interior, reminding you that something like wind can’t blow you down. It hits my shoulders in that way that makes me feel like I can’t fall. It’s the kind of push I need to start over again now. No, the future might not be perfect (odds are it’ll be far from it), and I’m afraid for it. I don’t have much more room in my closet for jackets right now; I’m not sure how many times I can say I’m just “starting over.” And yet, every time I falter or fail, even if it’s with something as simple as buying a jacket, I’ve been able to get back up.

The grey jacket is crisp, clean, and cool, waiting for somebody to say that it looks fresh and new and ready to go. My black jacket has two small holes on the wrist from getting caught on a door; but it fits like a glove, still hugging my shoulders in a way that says it has my back. My green jacket has a few wrinkles; it still zips up to stop the wind from making me feel like anything less than a badass. And that blue jacket from almost eight years ago still sits in my closet, now a faded navy that’s been scratched with rust. It’s seen countless thunderstorms, gusts, blizzards, spring blossoms and fallen leaves; it’s seen moments of joy and sorrow, triumph and failure.

As weathered as it is on the surface, though, if you flip up the collar there’s fabric still unexposed to the elements; there’s still a midnight blue under the surface, unscathed and vibrant, reminding me that there’s still an energy under my worn surface, that doesn’t just let me start over, but keep moving forward. And so I’ll pull it tight, zip it up, and walk head on into daunting and cold gusts, ready to remain upright.

[Photo by Julie Bloom.] 


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