Wednesday, August 7, 2013

First Impressions, Starting Over, and Obsessing over Details

Today is Wednesday.
On Monday, I report for my first day of my PhD program. We have a week of TA training. There are 30 people in my cohort (Masters and PhD students), and so it's a week of firsts:
  • first time meeting the faculty
  • first time meeting the cohort
  • first time meeting other grad students
  • first time learning way around campus
 I don't do well with new things until I get my routine down. It makes me extremely anxious that I don't know the rules, what is expected, what the norms are. I hate first days. I'm already having a hard time sleeping- tossing and turning at night worrying about every little detail. Will I be able to carry all my books in the leather briefcase I bought specifically to look grown up? In the New Mexico heat, will I arrive a hot, sweaty mess after trekking across campus?

My latest obsession is a flashback to childhood- what to wear on the first day? What makes the best first impression? What shows that I'm a professional, there to work? I was thinking what I wore to teach high school/community college was a good start, but just to be sure, I reached out to my Twitter/academic friends.
They all suggested business casual.
Just one problem. This is what you get when you Google business casual:

Overload, Will Robinson. So let's narrow this down...let's randomly pick an image.
And here's the problem. I wouldn't wear this crap if you paid me money. For one thing- those bags can't carry crap. For another, shoes like that? On your feet for eight hours a day? Are you high? And why do women have those ridiculous accessories? Oy.

I would rather live the life of a hermit than either A) buy anything like this or B) actually have to leave the house looking like this.
I don't like dresses, and I wear skirts to church, and that's it (because they have a two hour limit as far as I'm concerned- as in, I can wear them for two hours before I want to toss it in the closet and not look at it for a week)

The issue comes down to the fact that my idea of dressing professionally is more like this:
In fact, most of my wardrobe is this- slacks, ties, my obsessive love of vests, and jackets. Dress shoes that are nowhere near a heel (and in many cases, are men's dress shoes). Comfortable. Practical. Easy to organize outfits in the morning and color coordinate. Don't get me wrong, I've got some classy stuff- tailored vests, silk ties, good stuff!

Men have it easy, and I've always wondered at the extreme disparity between men and women and professional wear. Why is it acceptable for men to don a tie, button down shirt, slacks, and a jacket, while women are expected to wear this crap? Or, if a women does take the more practical view, and adopt this as a form of dress (as I do) then there are suddenly all kinds of assumptions made about gender and sexuality?
Why will the assumption be that I'm making some sort of statement?
The pressure mounts.
Can't I just dress like this because I want to be professional, and comfortable at the same time?

So, back to worrying. But if I'm going to be anxious, and worried, until I can work out my new routine, at least I'm going to do it in comfort.

Although having just received next week's schedule, I'm now worrying about how to fit my bag lunch into my briefcase since lunch is "bring your own"...

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