Monday, December 31, 2012

Body Talk

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I was going to do one of those yearly round-up posts, I really was. But then I was like, "Noooooooooo." I actually said that, really. Aloud, to myself. You see, I did the work of it. I went through a year's worth of blog posts and picked my favorite outfit from each month. But, as I went further and further back, I got glummer and glummer. It had nothing to do with the year itself, as I've had a wild and crazy and wonderful and adventurous 2012. No, it had to do with, as is the tendency with fashion blogs, how I looked. As I scrolled into the past, all I could see were smaller breasts and smaller thighs (I was apparently a chicken for most of 2012). And who wants to start off a new year reminiscing about the size of their thighs? Not me, no sir.

So instead, I want to talk a little about my body. You guys may have noticed that I've dropped off the face of the flat blogging world like it was the time of fashion blogger Christopher Columbus. Sure, I've been busy, and yes, it's been the holiday season (so hoop-dee-doo, and dickory-dock, and don't forget to hang up your sock) but I've always been busy, and it's always Christmas (if only, am I right). The truth of the matter is that I don't have the same body I had a year ago, or even, heck, six months ago, and I don't really know what to do with it.

Because I enjoy coating my misery in a delicious layer of light-hearted humor, I've been telling my family and close friends, when it comes up, that "MY BODY'S JUST GOING THROUGH A LOT OF CHANGES RIGHT NOW," like I'm 13 again. But honestly, my body is going through a lot of changes right now and I'm just sort of like, WHAT IS THIS PUBESCENT SORCERY?

When I started this blog, I also started a "weight loss journey." I kind of like that dumb phrase, because losing weight is this journey where you have to sort of machete your way through things and fall down cliffs and chart new territory and try not to eat all of the cupcakes. But, I digress. This past summer, I was at my lowest weight, and had just finished training for and running a 5k. I had finally figured out how to dress myself in a way that felt both flattering and reflective of my personality.

Since then, I've gained about 10 pounds. But this isn't just a weight thing. My breasts feel huge, you guys. I don't even know. My bras don't even fit, which means it's going to be a long sojourn through jiggle city until I fork over the money for a new Victoria's Secret bra. I've got stretch marks in a whole lot of areas I'm already self-conscious about. A thyroid problem I've had for, probably, my whole life has been causing a lot more body hair to grow, and I already have plenty. I've always been self-conscious about it all, and have struggled a lot lately with the wondrous world of hair-removal products and techniques, shaping and trimming, bleaching and tweezing. I have very mixed feelings about female hair removal, but I can't deny that all of mine makes me feel more than a little self-conscious (mostly in the "but will boys think I'm GROSS?!" way, which is probably the worst way). And this is going to sound weird, I'm sure (because going on about body hair for a paragraph isn't weird), but I feel like my face looks different. Older. Wider? Wiser? Just different. And frankly, I'm a little overwhelmed by it all.

A big part (the biggest part) of having a fashion blog is taking photos of yourself as frequently as possible, saying, to an extent, look at me and what I'm wearing. And frankly, I haven't been wanting to extend that invitation very far lately. It's not an "I'm ugly and I hate my body" situation, though I have plenty of days where I just glare, gut extended at my side profile in the mirror saying LOOK AT THE MONSTER YOU'VE CREATED. Really, it's more of an "I have no idea what the hell I'm doing" situation. I don't know what I'm doing, and I feel a little, well, wrong, saying "look at my style, be inspired," when I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what shapes work best on my new boxy hips and larger waist, I don't know how to be both a lumberjack and a JCrew model, I don't know what cream concoction gets rid of stretch marks best, I don't know how the hell to "landscape" my body hair, but at Christmas my cousin was going on about MANSCAPING and I wanted to punch him in the FACE because I am a WOMAN and I am supposed to KNOW what the HELL to do with my BODY HAIR, not my MAN COUSIN who is a MAN and doesn't have social pressures to be a HAIRLESS PORCELAIN GODDESS.

Hoo. Got a little carried away there. Let's bring it back down. Let's think of kittens. Kittens in little boots. And hats. Ahh, there we go.

I just finished up a, probably incomplete, list of new year's resolutions, and while one of them is "become comfortable with my body," whatever that entails, I think my main goal for the year is to focus. Focus on writing and getting published. Focus on getting healthy. Focus on what I really want for myself and how I want to achieve it. I don't think that losing 30 pounds and going hairless is going to make me "comfortable with my body." I think there is a way for me to be comfortable, though, and I just need to focus on what that would be, how to be comfortable. I took these pictures with my mother this morning and stopped halfway through, saying my outfit made me look fat, and that I probably should stop fashion blogging altogether. After thinking about it, I realized quitting probably wasn't going to help anything. So, instead, I decided to put up some of the photos from today, because after looking at them again I realized I was probably being a bit hard on myself (surprise, surprise). So, let's raise a metaphorical new year's eve toast to focusing on what we truly want and how to achieve it, to having body hair if you want it, and to realizing there is beauty even when you're sure there isn't.

Shirt: Delia's, Denim shirt: Madewell (gift), Jeans: Urban Outfitters, Boots: Dolce Vita (gift)

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playing the accordion on my shirt, apparently.

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Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Litte Bits and Big Changes

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This is Nicole Testa here, reporting to you live from beneath three blankets, a pile of dirty laundry and roughly 47 books. The only false thing about that sentence is that I'm not a news reporter. I've just finished up my work for this fall semester and am very slowly (think baby sloth) burrowing my way back to reality, one Sufjan Stevens Christmas album at a time. It's so strange to me that I've managed to neglect this blog for so long, especially since things have been changing a bit up in here, up in here. One might even say these changes made me act a fool up in here, up in here. I'm sorry, I couldn't help it (I'm not sorry, but I couldn't have helped it).

You might have read my post, "The Giver," a few days (weeks, months, YEARS? Okay, definitely not years) ago, or you might have started and been like screw this after a few sentences. That post felt weird didn't it? Ew, that post. Let's just put it behind us. Except for that jumper. Let's put that jumper on me. The problem, I think, is that last week, I had a lot of things I wanted to say, but I wasn't ready to say them. I was jumping the gun on saying things that I really couldn't talk about at the time, and what resulted was this weird, sort of self-righteous, not even completely honest post that made me go "yuck-o, buck-o" (I probably didn't actually say that).

The main change I'm talking vaguely about is that I quit my part-time job last Friday. There were a lot of reasons, most of them personal. This was no easy decision, no-sirree Bob. Or, the Christmas version, "no-sirree, Parson Brown." This semester was difficult. I had too much on my plate to be happy, and the problem was that it was all voluntary. I put that stress-food on my plate myself. And let me tell you, stress-food is gross, like liver or brussels sprouts or Flinstones vitamins. Next semester will be my final semester of college, possibly my final semester in "school," and I want to participate in it. I want to find new opportunities for myself, experience new things. I want to spend all morning dissecting an Emily Dickinson poem while that is still part of my job as a student. I want to at least try to be social (???) and do some silly and not so silly college things while I still can. I want to graduate with as few regrets as possible.

One of the wisest people I know told me repeatedly over the past few months that if you're not happy at your job, if your work doesn't make you feel good, then there's no reason to stay. I know that it's not that easy, but it is very, very important. It is important to feel valuable, and safe, and productive, and excited - especially when you're still young and figuring things out. And I was neglecting my itch to "expand my horizons," to seek a new happiness when the old one had run dry. But now I am determined to scratch the itch (literally and figuratively, btw). I am so excited to have found an amazing internship for this spring at a place called Figment (some of you folks might remember I entered a poetry contest there last year and asked for you to help by voting for me. Thanks for that, again). I'll be doing a lot of work that I care about, and learning a lot of new things, and traveling to the city and probably drinking too much flavored coffee. It just feels like a right decision in so many ways, and that is a swell feeling.

This semester has been one of so many goodbyes, of so many instances of me feeling like time was running out on me while I scrambled to find my balance, to find the right words to say to the right people. I know everyone is, like, stereotypically "bad at goodbyes," because honestly, if you met a person who was excellent at goodbyes you'd probably think they were a real jerk. But, I am especially bad, because I cling, and don't see the point in any relationship (with a few exceptions) being final, which is not a viewpoint everyone shares, as I have found. But as I say goodbye to friends graduating early, co-workers with superb facial hair, old jobs, old classes, old pairs of tights, I take pride in knowing that it is possible to move forward without losing the things you leave behind, that you can take leaps and do new, exciting, scary things, and only have to say "but I'll see you soon, because I love you." Now, let's all raise the hypothetical Caramel Brulee Lattes we all wish we had and toast to progress without forgetfulness, and the good  selfishness that can be really hard sometimes, but is necessary if we want to grow and find out how wide our arm spans can really be.

I know that indoor photos are a no-no, unless there's like, daylight, and a white, blank wall or whatever, but outdoor shots were just not happening today (or yesterday, or the day before that), and hey, at least there's a Christmas tree?

Dress: Vintage, Sweater: H&M

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Until tomorrow,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Doodle Do

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So, let's just put it out there that OH HEY, I really shouldn't be on blogger right now because OH HEY, I have eight thousand (give or take 7,990) final projects to do, but OH HEY, here I am. Things have been wonk-central over here, personally and school-ally. I'll have a post where I talk about some exciting things soon, but for now, I wanted to put up a little post to say hi, and maybe grab a quick cup of coffee with you guys, before I dash out the door to write 5 final papers. Some of you may know that I love poetry, though I'm very shy about sharing it here. Someday, maybe. Something that's been really calming this semester, though, is doodling. Back in high school, we didn't have creative writing classes, so instead I tried out visual art. I'm not so good at it, but I still enjoy it. So, I thought it would be fun to just share some doodles I've done lately with you guys. Someday, when I stop being a big ol' wimpity wimp, maybe you'll get some poems, but for now, DOODLES!

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Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Giver

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No, no, no. Not that The Giver. Though, Lois Lowry certainly is an author worth talking about. I'm more so talking about myself, but I'm inclined to delete this sentence because WOW, does that make it seem like this is going to be a disgustingly self-glorifying blog post about how freaking charitable I am or whatever. But fear not, that's not my intent. At all. In fact, there's probably going to be a good deal of self-deprecation in this post. Here here!

What I really want to talk about is giving and giving and getting attached and becoming a semi-endearing host for a whole bunch of sometimes attractive but often not completely worth it love leaches. Got it? Cool.

I was talking to a friend tonight night over an abundance of Mexican food about a current crisis I'm dealing with (I'll just let you guess at it based on your current knowledge of my life, it's more fun when posts are interactive). I was sort of (read:very much so, in a high pitched whine) going on about how I feel guilty and responsible for making a good, solid decision that benefits me but inconveniences someone I care too much about. As I fretted, she sighed and said, "Nicole, you are a giver." I stared into the abyss of Mexican rice on my plate and took a very long sip of sangria.

Here is where I attempt to define what a giver is, not at all ever based at all on my personal experience. Because what do I know about that. A giver is a special creature who is pretty bashful and sometimes lives in a small hovel type dwelling, a la a fox. Maybe they just spend a lot of time in their bedrooms. Wherever they are, they are generally spending at least some of their time thinking of sweet things to say or creating thoughtful gifts to give the people they think are really swell. They are known to try too hard, harder than the person they think is really swell, and often they inconvenience themselves for people who sometimes deserve love and warm gestures, but plenty of times so totally do not even deserve a low-five.

Okay, I lied, that definition is 100% solely based on me. I've always been a fan of gifts. Now you're saying to yourself/me, "Nicole, that's such a dumb thing to say, who doesn't like gifts?" But what I mean is, I like the idea of a gift a whole lot. I love the idea of getting someone something meaningful just because you like them. Just because you like them! That's all. You think to yourself, "I really think that person's swell, and I want to make them happy, so I'm going to do/make/find/buy/carve/cook this for them, and they're going to DIG IT." That makes me happy. It is also a huge part of my personality (to a fault?) to show my like, and speak my like, for other people. Often, though, I've found that the sentiment isn't reciprocated. That doesn't stop me though. Because you are still my friend, someone I like a whole lot, and by gum, I'm going to keep at it.

I'm not saying here that, oh wow, I am a very sweet person and it is such a problem because I am just TOO SWEET. No, sirree Bob. It's more of an argument that I have an insecurity that folks won't love me unless it is known, and known via expressing it early on, and loudly. How does this tie in to my lamenting over making a decision that benefits myself? PERFECTLY, I THINK. This need to make others happy and insecurity that if I am not proactively being like LOOK, LOOK I MADE YOU A SWEATER MADE OUT OF APPLE PIES BECAUSE I KNOW YOU LOVE SWEATERS AND APPLE PIES, then that person isn't aware that I care. And making a decision that benefits only me and has a side effect of inconveniencing another person, any like or love that person felt for me must hypothetically fly out the hypothetical window, right?

Wrong. One of the quotes I've most frequently heard in my life is something along the lines of "If someone was really going to drop you that easily, then they're not worth your time." But that's also one of the hardest things for me to remember. Sure, a person isn't a good friend, and is likely not worth having in your life, if they're going to lose their like of you at the drop of a hat. Unless it was a glass family heirloom hat that you angrily threw on the floor to break and insult them. That's understandable.

It's one of many things I'm working on, and can be categorized under the broad umbrella heading of knowing your own worth - something I seem to always come back to. Lately I've noticed more and more reciprocation in my life. And honestly, maybe it was always there, or always trying to be, but I was too insecure to see it. But now I'm starting to see it. Here here, am I right?

Oh, and I'm wearing an outfit I like.

Jumper: Beacon's Closet, Top: Levi's, Shoes: Dolce Vita via Marshall's, Coat: Lord & Taylor

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Until tomorrow,

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Blue Raft on The Blue Sea

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My first inclination in writing this post was to do one of those cheesy "long time, no see"/"hey, remember me? I USED TO BLOG" opening jokes, but you people are better than that so I won't. Instead, I've decided to JUMP AT YOU GUYS.

I'm going to be honest here (surprise, surprise), and say that I haven't been feeling completely up to snuff this semester, or, more specifically, completely like myself, whatever that means. Since summer ended, I haven't felt in control of my life in the way I would like to. And I mean, obviously we're all only "in control" of our lives to a certain extent, but let me try to explain. I've been busier in the past few months than I've ever been in my life. I've been working more, teaching a class on the weekends, internship searching, and trying to, like, "enjoy" my senior year of college while trying to do my best to keep my grades up to my own standards (and, let's be honest, "enjoying college" for me is really just like, being able to keep my grades up to my own standards). But since September, I've been feeling increasingly like I'm on a treadmill, and someone's raising the speed at an absurd rate, and instead of being able to keep up, it's like I'm in a cartoon, and I just got sucked up into the machine and am just stuck in the treadmill going at hyper-speed but not even being able to get up, let alone run. Got all that? Okay, cool.

It's been scary, to be honest. It feels an awful lot like one particular part of my life has absorbed the rest of it. I've been really bad at making time for things I care about - friends, blogging, writing for kicks. By the time I come home from work, I have school work to do, or, if it's been a particularly rough day, I'll go do something mindless like scroll through tumblr reblogging cats in bow ties until I pass out.

Two weeks ago, I had my first Friday off in a very long time. I woke up guiltlessly late, and spent all morning working intently and thoughtfully on an Emily Dickinson paper, sipping coffee, criminal minds on very low volume in the background. I went to the track and jogged a very chilly mile as the sun started to dip below the tallest buildings. I got dinner (and a very large piece of tiramisu) with a very good friend, came home, and fell asleep watching more criminal minds. That entire day, I kept thinking about how happy I was, how my head was finally above water (or that I had finally unwound myself from the treadmill? Are we continuing on with that metaphor?) and how I felt in control of my life again, if only for that day. I've been trying to channel that day to get me through the coming weeks of the supreme grossness that is the end of a semester. Life is a lot of flux, a lot of things coming and going, but currently, I feel like I'm on some especially shakey ground. It's exciting too, though, you know? That excitement of like, standing on a precarious beam while walking across a river, where you could fall, and that's terrifying, but there's also something exhilarating about not knowing exactly what comes next, or how wet your pant legs will be by the time you get there. Right? Okay, good.

This outfit required me to learn how to tie a bow tie, so I did. I think it makes me look like a wacky old english professor, which is the look I'm generally going for. Also, almost everything I'm wearing is from Uniqlo, which, as a store, freaks me out, but while in the city last week, I braved it for the flannel. Alternate post title: I Did It All for the Flannel.

Top, skirt: Uniqlo, Shoes: Vintage

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Until tomorrow,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small Business Saturday at Faces and Faces!

Hi folks! I know things have been slow around these parts lately, and that is because I am busy busy busy (and bad at prioritizing?) BUT, I wanted to let you guys know that all weekend, I'm offering 25% off any brooch purchase from my etsy shop Faces and Faces! So, take a look and see if there's a face you like. And oh goodness, expect a mildly exasperated, very full life update soon, promise.

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Coffee Shop Chronicles

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That sounds like a bad teenage, possibly paranormal, mystery series, am I right? But sorry to disappoint - I'm just talking about my own life, which is not teenage, or paranormal, though it is mysterious sometimes. You know me, always jib-jabbering on about baby steps and progress and giving yourself pats on the shoulder with not one but both hands because you deserve it. So, when I tell you "Hey, I almost feel silly talking about this in a blog post," you know things are getting pretty serious. I'll even excuse you for a moment while you recover from the spit-take that I just caused you to have.

There is a coffee shop up by my job that is hip and happening and always full of regulars, and also puppies. The puppies are also regulars, as if the situation wasn't intimidating enough. See what I just did, though. I called a situation that involves puppies and coffee intimidating - and I love both of those things. The problem is, if you haven't already guessed at it, that I am very easily intimidated. If you've been checking into this blog for a while, you know this, and you know that, while it is easier than before, it is still hard for me to do things on my own without feeling like everyone's watching my every move, waiting for me to screw up my coffee order, or spontaneously throw up on the pastry case. Even though no one gives a gosh darn hootin toot about what I'm doing, I feel like everyone cares, and that is enough to make me want to walk right past the coffee shop.

So I did walk past it, plenty of times. TOO HIP, TOO INTIMIDATING, TOO MANY JUDGMENTAL SMALL DOGS, are just a sampling of things I heard in my head. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I had a pretty decent-sized struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I did this thing my psychologist called "evening out" where an even amount of my body parts had to be touching or, I was convinced, something bad would happen to me. This was my worst "behavior," but there was others. During my first week of college I had a breakdown so fierce I didn't verbally communicate with people for days. I don't think I've told more than three people that fact in my whole life, oops. I've pretty much had anxiety "COMIN' OUT THE EEYUZ!!," as my grandmother would say, for a very long time. It's been a process, but I'm WOW so much better about it all now. I still have plenty of moments though, like, oh hey how convenient, the coffee shop.

A few weeks ago I went into the coffee shop and got a cappuccino. A victory cappuccino, as I am apt to call it. I was nervous and awkward and forgot to put a splenda in it but, by gum, I got it. I went again today, and was, once again, sort of clumsily awkward. Don't you just hate when it's not clear where you're supposed to stand, or where the line forms? Ugh, but minor issue. This time, though, I did remember to put splenda in my latte. HUZZAH. And even though I didn't know where to stand, and the cute barista guy had to say "for future reference, the line forms over here," that latte was delicious. The latte was delicious. Isn't that the point it all comes down to?! The latte was delicious! I am getting ahead of myself (and wishing I had another latte). Sure, I was fumbly and (charmingly?) awkward and uncomfortable, but I ended up with what I wanted. Because I asked for it. Because I made the decision to do something, albeit microscopic in that fantastically vague "grand scheme of things," to make myself uncomfortable to achieve the result I wanted.

Now maybe you see why I felt like I was bordering on silly by writing this post. I'm sure at least one of you has been like "Omg, JUST SUCK IT UP AND GET YOUR GODDAMN COFFEE IF YOU WANT YOUR GODDAMN COFFEE, UGH YOU DISGUST ME but your blazer is cute." Though, I think you're probably barking up the wrong blog if you in fact do not want to hear me attempting to encourage you (and me) with baby step successes. The truth is, this is my life. Maybe it does sound absurd, and maybe it is, but these are the things I deal with, the choices I make, or don't make, or regret not making, and though I absolutely don't put a positive spin on them all the time (trust me, you can often find me covered in 30 blankets feeling sorry for my coffee-less self while listening to the slowest sad-jams I can find, but never Bon Iver because I just cannot, sorry guys) but in my posts, I like to clear my head and think as rationally and triumphantly as I can. I think I and every other good person, spend too much time beating ourselves up, so if I can lessen that for me, and you, then by gum plum dooby dooby dum I'm going to try it out.

Now, an important note about my outfit: I am wearing a blazer.

Skirt: H&M, Sweater: TJMaxx, Shoes, Shirt: Thrift, Blazer: Gap

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This is my face:

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This is my face when ordering a latte:

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Until tomorrow,