Personal Presence, Self-Care

An Image Relaunch Takes Place 30 Years Later

An image relaunch takes place 30 years later – I almost never thought that this moment would ever happen. But, it finally did, and I will never be the same again.

A couple weeks back, I flew to Chicago and to my childhood suburban hometown, to attend my 30-year high school reunion. There were to be two reunion activities: a tour of the ever-expanding high school campus, and the main event. Knowing this, I briefly contemplated how I’d want to show up at each activity. As I performed a cursory wardrobe search, I realized and appreciated that I was not going to dress to impress. I let go of the emotional trauma that was so much a part of my childhood experience and adult memory. I had created a headline in my brain about this moment: an image relaunch takes place 30 years later.

So, if I knew that I had no intention of dressing to impress anyone, why consider this an image relaunch? This was for me, and me alone.

For the high school campus tour, I wore the most intriguing pair of pants for warm weather that I own. Paired with it was a short-sleeved knit that color coordinated and also showed off my muscly arms. It’s an outfit I’d wear on a date to feel in touch with my physical prowess and positive, creative energy. It’s an outfit that reminds me that I’m free. I wore a pair of gorgeous gray-blue lizard skin lace-ups and a matching belt. I felt fantastic. That’s the me of today who I know. Present, friendly and engaging; and intelligent, introspective, and intentional. My clothes reminded me to infuse all of that personal energy into a place that had left me feeling empty. Can you see how this was an image relaunch?

While on the tour, I encountered some of the spaces where I had been physically and verbally attacked. However, these very areas had been transformed over these last three decades to reflect the changing needs of the school. I knew where the bay of lockers was that bore out my version of “Custer’s Last Stand.” But, there were no lockers there now. Also, across from where those lockers were, was the former location of my refuge: the math-resource center. All gone. So was the pain of memory. I stood in that physical space, knowing and remembering what had happened there. I stood there long enough to see if I could feel anything, but I felt nothing. Just space, air, and freedom.

The suburban Chicago street of my horrific childhood looks, today, neither horrific nor childlike. It’s matured a lot, and so have I.

After the campus tour, I drove my rental car, a convertible with California plates, no less, with the top down. I went to my childhood home, drove up and down the street, and idled the car right in front of the house. I sat in silence other than the purr of the engine. Again, I wanted to see if I might feel anything by being in the neighborhood where all hell broke loose. Absolutely nothing. It actually felt dead to me. But, inside the car, I felt so alive. Again, that feeling of freedom came over me like the warm breeze shaking delicate autumn leaves from their trees. After a few minutes, I sped off, vowing to never return there again. I am at peace with the place, at long last.

Almost automatically, I pointed the car in the direction of a local eatery my mom used to enjoy. I think it provided her sustenance during the toughest times of her illness, until eating became too burdensome. Sitting in front of the house, I realized that it wasn’t pain that I missed. I just missed Mom. So, going to have a bowl of cabbage soup that she used to love, was my way of conjuring up her spirit. Cabbage soup for the Jewish soul, or something like that. While enjoying the soup, fried cheese sticks, and ice-cold beer straight from the bottle, I created a new, happy memory.

This day was all about being in the service of myself, ensuring that I was finally free at last. The thing is, I had no expectations about the day, and how it might have gone. This is quite different than having low expectations. Low expectations preclude that you don’t expect much good. To have no expectations is to arrive on the scene with total surrender. Whatever will be will be.

Cindy, Dave, and I were neighbors growing up. Cindy was part of my Hebrew School carpool. Dave is a crucial part of the modern day renaissance of my connections with all the people I’ve come to connect with from childhood. I write about this experience extensively in my forthcoming book. He unwittingly helped me to relaunch myself, and I am forever grateful.

It was time for the evening festivities. I had packed an outfit that I’ve previously been photographed wearing. I wore a darkly hued blue and black intarsia patchwork sweater with similarly hued jeans with heads all over. The description sounds bold like my personality, but the look is quiet, studied, and perfectly paired. I wore it because I wanted to feel fun and successful as I reintroduced myself to former classmates. It worked for me, like being in my own skin.

An image relaunch takes place 30 years later, and I gifted myself with newfound freedom. Fun and success, indeed. What I wore simply reflected what already existed from deep within. The confidence I appear to have on the outside, resides comfortably on the inside. The kind of coaching I would offer to any client experiencing a similar journey, I offered to myself. What a great experience!

My role, as a personal brand and style strategist, is that of a storyteller. I learn about a person’s personality and strengths, translate that into an appropriate personal style aesthetic, and help each client to visually and non-verbally tell her or his story with ease and authenticity.