The Curious Thing About Being Outside

Until this past January, I was your typical office worker, complete with a long commute, a cubical, weekly meetings, the whole nine. While I haven’t ditched the desk job or the meetings, my situation has changed drastically; instead of commuting 90 minutes each way in my car, I am now walking 0.8 miles each way. Additional feature updates included with the new gig: a shared office (no cube) with a real window that lets in real natural light, and a flexible schedule, complete with a laid back boss who doesn’t keep tabs on my exact time of arrival or departure. Today I took and hour and fifteen minutes for lunch. I am a liberated woman.

But, here’s the thing. In the past four months of walking to work, I have made a surprising, barefaced, discovery. In all those years of driving to work, the outside climate didn’t matter at all, which is to say that I was completely detached from it, with the exception of thunderstorms or ice that made my drive dangerous. The process of becoming attuned to it has been strange, eye-opening, dare I say, grounding. In my former life, my day went like this: wake up, get ready, walk approx. 15 feet to my climate controlled car. Sit in car for 90 minutes, park, walk the 25 feet into my office building. I rarely left for lunch because a longer lunch meant a longer work day, so I did the thing where you just eat at your desk under the glow of the fluorescent lights while reading a million articles about how sitting and office life are slowly killing you. Then I’d walk the 25 feet back to my car, drive home, walk the 15 feet back into my house, etc. My point? I could wear the exact same clothes 52 out of 52 weeks. I barely had a need for a jacket, I mean, sitting in the cold car while it warmed up for 10 minutes was just stoic, and in the summer the air conditioning in the office was so cold that I had to dress like it was January (or July, who could tell the difference). I had little concern for the function of my footwear, though surprisingly some heels did still make my feet hurt just from sitting in them. That should say something about heels: if you can’t sit in them, you shouldn’t be walking in them. Just sayin’.

Starting my new job in January brought the stark realization that I didn’t, in fact, have any clothes, much less a jacket, appropriate for actually being outside for more than 3 minutes. As it turns out, shoes can be cold too. Who knew? Hats, gloves, scarves, these things also serve to keep you warm, and that jacket better have a hood in case it’s raining or snowing. There is a vast difference between fifteen degrees in the sun and fifteen degrees with wind. Incidentally, windchill isn’t a totally useless tidbit of information concocted by the Weather Channel; it’s real, and it can be felt by every pore on your face. I quickly ditched all footwear that wasn’t comfortable and waterproof, and forget even those if they didn’t have enough room for my wool socks. Okay, who am I kidding, my wool socks and my tights.

Conversely, now that it’s starting to get warmer I have discovered that my feet sweat, a lot. It’s less than adorable. Also, I apparently had no need for professional looking short sleeved attire at any prior point in my life, as my closet is devoid of these garments. The pants that were so cold as to warrant the addition of tights in February are now so hot I can barely keep them on. The notion that black material attracts heat is not an old wives’ tale. Those cute flats I usually break out each spring? Not so supportive. Listen, you’ve entered entirely new territory when you consider the heel drop of your every day shoes.

My point is this: most of the clothes we wear have no function. I mean, sure, they cover us, so there is that, but faced with the daily reality of being outside and mobile every day? Completely useless. I know I’ve made it sound like I’m walking 8 miles to work, and not 0.8, but it really has been an enlightening experience. Now I’m one of those people who thinks to grab an umbrella if it looks a little overcast, and I totally see why people would wear sneakers to work. (I’m looking at you, Melanie Griffith.) I know, I know. People live in cities and travel to and from work, or wherever, by foot all the time, and, sure, there is that whole bike commuting thing too. Plenty of people before me have likely reached this same conclusion and are much savvier at dressing appropriately for the elements. You know what else? Most bags are useless too. Trying fitting all your daily food for a day in your cute tote bag, and then sling it over your shoulder and walk for awhile. Uh huh, thought so. Your food didn’t fit and your bag almost severed your shoulder from your torso…or maybe I just eat a lot! Translation: backpack and modular food jars to accompany the sneakers and three climate jacket.

I’ve started to feel like an honorary Sherpa, and I’ve become increasingly proud of my weatherproof garb that will (hopefully) last me many, many moons. As it turns out, function is much more expensive than fashion, not that I was ever on the cutting edge of trendiness, but you catch my outdoorsy drift. I’ve already started to plan my summer survival guide. Spoiler alert: skirts have been an underrated part of my life.

The silver lining in it all? I feel every shift, I am experiencing every season. I recently noticed when things started to bloom and being outside had a new and pleasant aroma…and thank goodness, because my feet were sweating.

*Photo credit: gato-gato-gato

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1 Comment

  1. Inspector 75 April 28, 2016 at 7:28 am

    This was really good. It IS an amazing fact of our air “conditioned” life of being INSIDE all the time. Good way to conceive of the narrowness, via clothing. Well done.


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