For about the last year, approximately once every three weeks or so, someone I know to a varying degree has come up to me and invariably began to tell me, with the excited look all perceived compliment-bestowers have right before they impart their ultimate wisdom, “Holly — ” (they usually cock their head to the side at this point and give me a tight-lipped, open-mouth smile) “ — you always look so … comfortable!”
When this all started last year, honestly, I was pretty flattered. I had been increasingly wearing more comfortable clothes. My jeans were getting baggier, my sweaters more oversized, my sandals more worn-in, and I liked them enough (they were comfy). I was pleased people were noticing, really. Thanks, society. Ya finally got me.
But the frequency with which this interaction recurred started to dismay me. What did it mean that I consistently looked comfortable enough that other people — many friends, acquaintances, my boss and even a stranger one time — regularly felt comfortable enough to tell me just how comfortable I looked?
It is kind of weird to constantly receive this neutral feedback about yourself when you don’t feel like you’re necessarily asking for it. It seems innocuous, but whenever I would jokingly mention the compliment I had just received to someone else, that person would get offended for me.
It was a little confusing, but mostly pretty amusing. It turned into one of those inside jokes (with myself). One of those “Why am I like this?” things — why do I only want clothes that look like my dad’s friends wore them in the ’80s? What alternate reality on my dresser counter do my keys transport to whenever I’m running late? Why can I not stop eating cheese when my body can barely handle dairy anymore? How is my Instagram “Explore” page only feminist memes and hedgehog videos, and why do I love them all? Why am I told on a monthly basis that I look comfortable, and why do I not know if I should be insulted by it?
And so I’ve been thinking about it. On one hand, I feel pretty comfortable. On the other, I mean, I don’t know — am I not supposed to?
I don’t want to read too much into it. I can take it as a compliment — I am pretty comfortable with my style, with my sense of self. I have grown comfortable here at UC Berkeley among the larger campus community and within the smaller communities I’ve built for myself.
Sure, when I first I got to Berkeley, I by no means felt “comfort.” I came here at 18 from the other side of the country; any out-of-state student will tell you that “this is the biggest change I’ve ever made,” that “you don’t know what real weather is” and that “if you think Noah’s actually has good bagels, we’re going to fight” — whatever. I was nervous, insecure and overwhelmed; I missed real bagels; and I probably looked like it.
But I am incredibly lucky to have a family that supported my ability to come here. I was so fortunate to have been randomly assigned a freshman residence hall with a group of wild, hilarious love-weans with whom I have had truly incomparable experiences for the past four years. I am so happy that I was accepted into The Daily Californian and able to meet and work personally with inspiringly intelligent, hard-working students throughout my college career. I am beyond grateful for the awesomely funny (drink) friends and great partner whom I found in the co-op I joined a couple years ago. I am (now) thankful for the rigorous education I received here, from my challengingly knowledgeable professors, GSIs and peers.
Plenty of these experiences have been uncomfortable. Those feelings of discomfort — uncertainty in relationships, pushing bodily limits, constant self-checking, financial struggles and countless other experiences — build you and your convictions. They have helped me get to know myself, realize who I want to be and try to figure out why I am like this.
So here I am, with all of these feelings, or whatever — but I guess that’s kind of what I’m trying to say: I still don’t know why I’m like this, but I’ve finally realized that I don’t think it matters, because I’m comfortable enough with myself anyway.
I know this is a massive privilege. I’ve been incredibly lucky these past four years to come to get to know Berkeley and myself. But like most people with privileges, I don’t really know what to do about them moving forward.
Here I am, with all these feelings, or whatever, on the cusp of the Real World™, with the need to get a semi-professional wardrobe in the face of plenty of discomfort to come. I don’t have any form of gainful employment lined up past this summer. I do have only a vague idea of what I want to pursue and no real plan for how to do it.
If you came to this farewell column looking for advice, I’m sorry. I don’t really have much. I can offer you a little nostalgia, some jumbled self-reflection and lots of anxiety? Maybe someone else who knows why they are the way they are has more to offer you. I was given this nice space, and I just used it to talk all about myself, and, like I said, I don’t know why I’m like this. But I’m OK enough with it, most of the time. Maybe you can be, too, if you find your comfy big sweaters and your great, funny love-weans.