Brand Evolution.

If my social feed is to be believed, staying at home has brought out the nesting instinct in many of us. Before the weather turned springy here in the Midwest, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot else to do besides stroll through our basements and wonder how we’ve accumulated so much crap. Extra time spent at home in the dust-magnifying light of day has had me noticing every little imperfect thing, sending worry flooding through me – back when we hosted gatherings, was everyone whispering about how we live in squalor?!

It’s classic overthinking, of course – ya stare at something, anything, long enough, and you’ll notice (or find) flaws. “My cabinets were smudged with fingerprints!” observed a recent text from a fairly clean friend.

My DSM-V level of COVID cleaning is probably worth several stand-alone posts, but I need to kick off this post by focusing on the so much crap.

After tossing out several Suburban loads of meaningless Pier 1 wall art, paring knives, and cords that didn’t attach to anything, I started digging in to closets and dressers. I pulled out everything, including the stuff that had sat for years in the back or at the bottom – neatly hung or perfectly folded, of course – untouched.

There, third drawer down, I discovered the light green Horny Toad T-shirt you see above.

No high heels.

No red high heels, even.

Now that would be funny if it didn’t make me all misty and nostalgic.

Growing up on the great north coast, I was always outside. Picnicking and rock-hopping along Lake Superior’s rocky shoreline, enjoying the vistas on the SHT, skating the Munger Trail.

Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I was a devoted runner and occasional triathlete, motivated by PRs, medals, a good T-shirt, and the best post-race snacks.

My sportiness was core to my identity, a weighty source of pride and accomplishment.

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A few of my favorites …

I liked to dress the part, too. Lake Superior chic. 

Cargo pants in a ripstop nylon. North Face-logoed tees in a fitted silhouette. Utilitarian bags with nary a designer logo in sight.

I kept maybe half a dozen pairs of shoes in my closet, and the majority were functional. Mizumo. Brooks. Keen. When I wore a favorite pair out, I’d be right back at the local running shop to replace them.

One spring in the mid-2000s, after my Mom gifted me with Chacos, I wore them solidly for six months, no matter what else I was wearing. I clearly remember walking in to a November client meeting, peering down at my cold, reddened toes and finally deciding to put them away for the year.

My favorite store in the whole lakeside city was Trailfitters, an airy space full of earth tones and $24 socks. I’d go a couple of times of month, fill up the fitting room with must-tries, and rarely left empty handed. (It didn’t hurt that the store was housed near the best queso and lakeview in town, a favorite happy hour spot for my Duluth group.)

So, I’m not sure exactly when I stopped being the one who came in to work with rumpled wet hair and a gym bag to getting regular french tips and a login for a special super-secret Coach club. Facebook Memories pop up occasionally that indicate it was probably about five years ago.

I was deeply unhappy then, for many reasons. My priorities had been forced into a dramatic shift. As treasured pieces of my identity fell or were stripped away, I still had the choice to maintain a shiny red-patent exterior. Fretting about frivolities was an outlet for me, and as I started dressing better and putting more into grooming, I received a lot of compliments, which, considering what was absent in my life, I needed.

It’s stuck – I do enjoy piecing an outfit together, or finding just the right pair of shoes for the day. And I particularly love red heels.

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Fabulous, fabulous footwear!

I’ve still got an outdoorsy streak. You can take the girl out of Duluth, but you can’t take Duluth out of the girl. I still love to be outside, though many of my athletic endeavors now involve four walls, a giant touchscreen, and dumbbells.

No, that wrinkled, long-buried shirt doesn’t reflect who I am now. Still, I couldn’t toss it … just as I can’t toss the years, however painful, that sanded and shaped me into who I am today.

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