I've been writing an annual summer roundup post for almost as long as I've had this blog. Most of them read like frantic checklists of restaurants, day trips, and recipes. For a long time, that was how I approached my summers (and the rest of my life): as a checklist. By cramming my life with food, projects, and travel, I was able to spend years avoiding some pretty serious mental health issues.
Eventually, that stopped working. In last year's summer recap, I touched on stepping back and letting go. That's still a work in progress—and to some extent, it will probably be a lifelong process. But I've stopped waiting for things to be perfect to find happiness. Instead, I'm living as well as I can right now by finding the joy in the every day.
To that end, I bought a black lace dress.
I spotted it at a thrift store in St. Cloud while I was researching a travel article. It's the sort of dress that my Barbies wore in the 1990s, with a short flouncy skirt and fitted bodice. When I was a kid, I thought being an adult meant that I would wear dresses like that. Instead, I settled into a life of jeans and yoga pants. I focused on the practical. I disappeared into checklists. I lost pieces of myself.
But something about that dress sparked joy, and I pulled it off the rack and took it home.
Then I wore it: to the theater and to dinner, to a panel discussion about cocktails and out for ice cream. I wore it to the top of the Foshay Tower and on a walk across the Mississippi River. I wore it when I wanted to celebrate and when I needed a boost of confidence. I wore it because it made me happy.
My black lace dress didn't change my life—I'm the one who's working on that. But it has come to symbolize the sort of person I want to be. Someone who spontaneously goes out for doughnuts. Someone who likes how she looks in selfies. Someone who eats French fries and goes trampolining. Someone who doesn't live by a checklist because it feels safer. Someone who faces life head on, even when it's difficult.
Someone whose summers feel like they stretch on forever, because they're filled with so much joy.
Photos courtesy of Josh Feist. You can find him on Instagram @jaershh.
This blog post was inspired by this Instagram post about summer checklists, this one about real life versus my Instagram feed, and this post about my trip to San Francisco. You can find me on Instagram @_tangledupinfood.