Pulling It Together: Closet Lessons for Life
by Christie Laming, MD
Recently I received a package with a new black shirt I’d ordered. It was thinner than I expected, and I immediately wondered what I could wear it with, since I didn’t have anything to wear underneath. Suddenly, I remembered I’d also recently purchased a black bra and camisole, which would work perfectly under the shirt. This may seem like a simple, relatively insignificant moment to most women, but for me, it was a milestone. In that moment, I realized I was finally “one of those people,” and I had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that was about so much more than a new outfit.
I know you’re probably thinking, “huh?” And I get it. Matching a shirt with corresponding undergarments is probably a weekly, if not daily, occurrence for most women. But stick with me … I’ll explain.
See, I was a pretty poor kid growing up … the youngest of three girls, raised by a single Mom who had to work three jobs just to support us all. Growing up, I remember never having matching socks and being horrified at the prospect of having the scoliosis check in school (because all the other girls would see me in my bra and undies).
Our struggles didn’t end with clothes. There were times during my childhood when we either ate spaghetti with ketchup or corn flakes with powdered milk (to this day I won’t touch a corn flake). And, I remember having to pick up and move out of our house during the night because we couldn’t pay the rent.
I know that my story isn’t that unique, and that many families in our country continue to struggle. For me, the path from that rough childhood has been more like a rollercoaster, and I sometimes struggle to take a breath. But in being able to go to my own closet and find the matching undergarments, I realized that I’d overcome something I’ve struggled with my whole life.
I was the first in my family to go to college – a private women’s college, in fact (I mean, go big or go home, right?). I got a scholarship that, when combined with a work-study, covered 75 percent of my tuition/room/board. So, this poor kid from nowhere received $100,000 education for only about $25,000 in student loans. Still, I was a poor kid struggling.
Since then, I’ve done a lot with my life. I’ve traveled to London, where I worked as a nanny. I’ve graduated from college and then medical school. I’ve married and adopted three kids from foster care (now 4, 5 and 13 yrs). And I’ve opened my own family medicine practice. Still, I’ve always been a poor kid struggling.
Even now, my thrifty mind keeps me going to yard sales or charity/ secondhand shops. Slowly, I’m loosening up and I try to splurge a little on myself, but I usually just come home with new outfits or shoes for the kids. While I’ve made some progress, I’ve never been one of those “put together” women.
But standing in my closet, I had a realization – a moment of clarity and a sense of calm – that showed me I’m exactly where I’m meant to be (and where I’ve worked so hard to get). I’ve had a small handful of moments like this in my life … like a cloud parting and a fleeting ray of sun splashing across my face to show me that I’ve reached a fork in the road and something will now change.
So why share all of this? I’m not sure, but I felt compelled. Again I realize it’s a small moment that even now sounds like nothing; but it was a moment of enlightenment, that showed me what I have achieved. I was so busy DOING it all, that prior to that moment, I had missed seeing what I’ve actually done.
Now on the other side of the brief moment, I realized that I’m finally where I wanted to be. And, I also know this can’t be where I stop. Instead, I’ll focus more on giving back … to my family, my patients and my community. Because, as they say, with great success comes great responsibility.