A Guide to Wearing our Graduation Feelings

The title of Joan Didion’s essay collection that has become a maxim: We tell ourselves stories in order to live. One of my enduring personal myths at Sarah Lawrence was showing up to class with a Bolshevik avant-garde funerary director aesthetic in mind, only to find myself suddenly self-conscious as a glorified potato sack in Bronxville an hour later. But somewhere between the rookie thrill of East Village thrift stores in the first fall and the pilgrimages to Brooklyn sample sales in the last spring, while it’s still the same oversized pastel oxfords and grim sweater dresses on my body, there was a crucial moment when the relationship between me and clothes became more about who I am as a person in clothes than the clothes on this person. The important differences between the two, beyond the grammatical differences, materialized as I was cleaning my closet at the end of the semester: There are no places I go without having one of these garments on my body. In other words, the hat I wear is also myself.

The end of college is a floodgate for unfamiliar, unwelcoming, and even unnecessary feelings. If stories are supposed to be prescriptive in order to save us from the unknown, for a while, I had wanted mine to be one of numbness. Stories about variations of hopefulness, confusion, regret, ambition, and excitement have exhausted as fuel. At the same time, feeling is the only way to become strong; feel too much and feelings become your armor. The goal is to feel without being affected.

Part of wearing myself includes wearing my feelings–meaning that they can be spoken of with silence, acknowledged without being confronted (which is sometimes the surprising solution to many unwieldy emotions). It is the social, more permanent twin to eating one’s feelings in chicken tenders and sweet potato fries.

Still, more often than not, what we wear doesn’t depend on how we feel so much as how the weather feels. Historically, the day of May 23 would have gained half its heat by 10AM and lost it again by 9PM. There will be a 45% chance that precipitation will be observed at some point during the day, with more or less equal probability throughout the day. Sustained wind speeds typically vary from light breeze to gentle breeze over the course of the day. The current forecast predicts 60% chance of rain. I don’t pretend to give advice as a practical dresser. I only know that no practicality trumps the pragmatic comfort of feeling right. With this in mind, here is a tribute to some feelings we could wear:

Jaime Chu is a junior who likes to talk about books, sometimes even with people. Bare-all memoir-in-progress at @j__mechu.

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