For Vanity or For Sanity?

I’ve never had to dress for the winter before because I lived in Nigeria all my life. There, it’s always about 26°C (about 79°F because Americans have decided to be especially different) and it could be about 29°C (or 84°F) at midnight. So, needless to say, I’ve never really needed to expand my wardrobe to sweaters, boots, scarves, and gloves. I did need a few sweatshirts and leggings while I spent two years in South Africa, but I lived the majority of my life letting my long legs loose in all types of shorts and slippers (flip flops-not night shoes). I never thought about how often I wore shorts and slippers until I couldn’t anymore. At home, I either wore one of the two, or both of the two every single day, but since it started getting colder here, I haven’t been able to wear either of the two for days on end. Now, it sounds a little trivial but I’m going to try my best to break down why exactly I’m writing about why I can’t wear shorts outside anymore. 

Now, in most places in the United States, there are four seasons: summer (really hot, Nigeria-like), fall (the leaves are just always falling and it’s pretty cold, but not cold enough for you to need a thick winter jacket), winter (okay, kid, now the winter jackets come out), and spring (I’ve never experienced this but I hear all the leaves start growing again and it rains a lot). In Nigeria, there are two seasons: dry (it’s still hot but you’ll need a whole lot more moisturizer and lip balm) and wet (it’s probably as hot as the dry season but it feels hotter because it’s so humid you’re always sweating - and it rains quite a bit). In summary, it’s always hot in Nigeria. So, a big part of my style has always been suitable for warm weather. I could wear a cute, breathable top with jeans and some fancy Kene Rapu slippers one day, a flowing maxi skirt, sleeveless top and braided slippers the next day, and a t-shirt, shorts and Birkenstock-style slides the next. What I understand my style to be is only suitable for when the sun is out and when I’m almost sweating. I’ve always only known how to navigate looking nice or dressing appropriately when it was hot and now, I can do it with my eyes closed. 

Coming here in August, it was still very warm so I felt great about the way I dressed - I felt cute and comfortable. However, when the temperature started dropping, I had to exchange my shorts for a pair of leggings and my slippers for socks and boots. It’s not like I didn’t expect it to get cold - I knew it would. What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have a “style” for when it was cold. All of a sudden, I was never dressed appropriately and I was always cold and I actually had to think about what to wear the day before. My default has then become leggings and sweatshirt with boots or Vans and there is nothing wrong with this, except that it’s not me. I don’t like wearing leggings and jeans and boots and sweatshirts all the time. Sure, I’m warm and comfortable and I fit in but I always feel like I’m wearing someone else’s clothes. It has become frustrating going to school with people who have lived in the United States long enough to know the difference between how to dress up when it’s 4°C (39°F) and when it’s 0°C (32°F). I go to school with people who have been building their fall and winter wardrobes for years and quite frankly, it’s pretty intimidating. 

It’s been extremely disorienting trying to find the “Lagos Fikemi”, who I was so comfortable with, in the US because I can’t find her. Imagine going to the doctor with the flu in the middle of winter wearing a pair of shorts - what do you think the doctor’s first piece of advice would be? Spoiler alert: it would be to put some trousers on. For a while, I’ve felt so unlike myself just because I’ve had to dress differently than I usually do and some might call this placement of so much importance in my appearance vanity but it really feels a lot more like it’s for my sanity. Somehow, it feels like part of my identity has been taken from me and I’m not really sure what the solution is - do I suck it up and wait for the next summer or do I just try to be happy wearing leggings and sweatshirts all the time? Of course, I’m slowly building my winter/fall closet but, still, wearing so many layers feels so...wrong. It’s a strange phase to be in and I really hope that it wears off (this is still my first semester) because at the moment, I would much rather wear shorts than wear layers but I value my health too much for that business. 

I’m not one to wait around for things to wear off or to get better though - I’m one to do things about the things I have issues with (by the way, I did shoot my shot). Therefore, I’ve just decided to make a sacrifice (literally - I decided this while writing this sentence). I will cut down on the amount I spend on snacking and random amazon purchases, and I will save towards buying warm outfits that I actually really like. I will still feel weird because I can’t just get rid of the feeling that I’m wearing too many layers but what I like more than wearing shorts all the time is believing I look good all the time. I rarely feel like I look good in leggings and sweatshirts but if I can find winter stuff that I feel I look good in, I think I would’ve started the process of creating the “US Fikemi” that I like. So I guess shopping is about to become another form of self-care for me. 

To make all this a little more relevant, each of us may have had things taken from us which we didn’t want taken away. It could be a loved one, it could be the belief that we are intelligent (college does that to people), it could be a relationship, and it could just be our phones. Sometimes we can help these things being taken away, like putting a case on your phone so it doesn’t shatter when it falls, and sometimes we can’t help it, like losing a loved one to an unexpected stroke. Whether or not we can help what happens, we can always help how we react to it. For a long time, I chose to wait for summer, but now I’m tired of just waiting for the good times to come. Whatever improving your situation looks like, do it - go to therapy, go to tutoring, build new friendships, read a book. It’s going to be hard and you’re going to feel a little out of place trying to rediscover what it looks like to be happy but wise people have told me that it’s worth it and, at this point, my sanity is banking on me believing that they’re right.