I have more articles of clothing than any man should have. This is not hyperbole or a judgment of my gender. It’s fact.
My closet is larger than my girlfriend’s. I have more pairs of shoes than my two best friends combined. In high school, I had more shirts draped off of hangers than the amount that filled my parents’ collective closet. When I moved off campus in college, I chose my room based on how much space there was for my shorts and t-shirts.
Now all I wear are sweat pants and white t-shirts.
As I turn twenty-six, my jeans are collecting dust along with my degree in English. My polo shirts have become as useless as my masters in Education and my sweaters are as functional as my one year of coaching collegiate baseball. My assortment of button-down shirts and dress pants appear to me as I must appear to my parents: a mass of vastly under-utilized potential.
It’s not as if my eyes scan past the arrangement of colors and fabrics without the faintest hint of nostalgia or regret. There are days when I long for the slight itchiness and irritation of the gray knit sweater my aunt and uncle got me for Christmas last year. By merely sliding it over my head, I could slip into a passing crowd unnoticed. The desire to scratch my forearms would provide a constant reminder that I was taking part in something; that I was moving forward with everybody else.
Only, the sweater remains untouched in my closet. Ever since I began in earnest my attempt to become a writer, all the clothes that I assumed I would need in life have been rendered useless. I spent my early twenties stockpiling dress clothes and degrees with the notion that I was building an arsenal that would see me through any situation. No matter where life decided to take me, I would be prepared at every twist in the road.
A suit for an important meeting? Check. Vests and ties for meetings with artists? Check. Adaptable work experience? Check.
But all those finely pressed shirts and hours spent hunched over books in class were in preparation for a part of me that I never truly wanted to be. Sure, I enjoy dressing up, putting on a suit and a tie and looking well-maintained. I enjoy the community aspect of an office job and the slight pressure of a deadline pressing down on your shoulders. I can find some level of comfort in boarding a subway during the morning rush and knowing work will be waiting for me on my desk. At a job that is guaranteed.
But those are not scenarios that make me clamor to dip into my closet. I don’t get excited by the constriction and formality. It’s simply what I thought I needed. What I felt was best for me and a future that I barely understood.
No, what I really want are sweat pants.
They have become my life: simple and hopeful, but not particularly attractive. Many people discarded them years ago when childhood ended and important decisions needed to be made. Choice and comfort were rebuffed in fear of being left behind. Fear that not making use of the pinned-striped suit or flat front khaki meant missing out on the opportunities that were awaiting everybody else.
It’s a fear that I know all too well, and have only recently decided to ignore. For now, the more age-appropriate items that I always felt I needed remain guarded in my closet. They are a part of my life and my journey, but they are not who I am now. In the coming years, one way or another, I’ll find a way to use them. But only when it makes sense for me.
—Photo credit: Darwin Bell/Flickr