Each morning when we wake up, we are faced with a difficult decision. No, I am not talking about whether or not we should get out of bed and go to our early Monday morning class, nor am I talking about the choice between apple cinnamon oatmeal verses blueberry Greek yogurt for breakfast. The choice I am talking about is what to wear. We are often conflicted about what clothing is appropriate for a classroom setting; should we choose the formal business-like outfit, or should we opt for the more comfortable, seminary-esque attire? This used to be a conflict I too grappled with each morning, but a recent experience eliminated the struggle. For me, this decision is no longer an internal battle.
This past summer, I traveled to Germany on a CJF program. At the time, my mind set had been, “dress to impress,” so it is no surprise that I packed my “coolest” and most “fashionable” clothing. Each day I spent an immense effort preparing, choosing out suitable outfits, and even straightening my hair. This intensive preparation each morning of the trip definitely took away from my experience, as I ended up being extremely tired throughout the day, falling asleep on every bus-ride, and even occasionally dozing off during museum tours and panel discussions. Yet, it wasn’t until shabbat, when I decided to whip out my heels, that my fashion epiphany finally struck me.
On our Shabbat spent in Berlin, we were set up to have meals at various families’ homes. The house to which I was assigned was a half an hour walk from the shul. By the time I had walked for about ten minutes, I couldn’t bear the pain anymore, and ended up walking the rest of the way barefoot! When I finally arrived at my host’s home, I was told that there was no eruv, and was thereafter scolded for carrying my stilettos. It was at that moment that I realized- its just not worth it! Why kill myself trying to look great? All it gets me is blistered feet and disgruntled hosts.
To me, one of the most incredible aspects of Stern is the welcoming and unintimidating environment. Some days it’s true, I feel like I’ve just stepped into a seminary, when I see the swarms of black Hardtail skirts and baggy Forever 21 sweaters. But what’s wrong with that? I agree, “you will accomplish a lot more when you feel better about yourself”- but I’ve never felt better than when I roll out of bed fifteen minutes before class and whip on the casual Stern “uniform.” Not only does it give me the time to focus on my studies and extracurricular activities,, but when I step into the Koch Auditorium, in the stereotypical Stern dress, I feel like I belong. I feel like I’m a part of something. I don’t need a fancy blouse tucked into a pleated skirt to be academically productive and successful.
The next time I walk past you in the all-too-cramped hallways in my “shlumpy outfits,” know that I’m not dressed this way due to apathy or indifference. Rather, I chose to dress this way, and I’m proud of it.