For me, college has been a four-year long Target run.
If that sounds like a good time to you, you’ve probably never grabbed $150 of clothing in blind enthusiasm before realizing ‘oh wait, I still need to eat this week’ and then end up only buying one thing — even though you wanted it all.
At 18 years old, I entered a ‘store’ presenting life changing academic options at every turn- adorned by every mannequin, beckoning from every aisle, bursting from every shelf. However, this ‘store’ required that I only choose one. Pursuing that perfect choice, I took my first hesitant steps into the ‘women’s department.’
Instantly, journalism, an oversized tribal cardigan (one of my favorite items at Target), piqued my attention. Vibrant yet tasteful, comfortable yet classy, they epitomized my style as long as I could remember. Before I became too excited, though, rationality took over. If it was featured front and center, it was probably way out of my price range. Best to move on now before I got too tempted or disappointed, right?
And Northwestern being Northwestern, knowledge being knowledge, none of the alternatives would be bad. These options soothed my disappointment as I grabbed everything that looked good, got a dressing room, and began trying on my various identities.
International advocacy was a flashy crop top, a pair of leather leggings. Intriguing and edgy, but impractical. Much as I admired people who could work those pieces into their daily wardrobes, I knew I couldn’t pull it off.
Consulting, a gray pantsuit, veered toward the other extreme. They offered guaranteed usage and zero risk. But aside from letting me channel my inner Hillary Clinton, they didn’t bring any excitement.
Marketing was similar, except the pantsuit was a livelier gray or maybe navy.
During my freshman and sophomore years, I luxuriated in these endless possibilities. Far from indecisive, I considered myself a discerning customer. But after a while, I checked my phone and realized that I’d need to leave eventually. Instantly, my open mindedness morphed into frustration. Jesus Christ, just pick something so you can leave and, like, get Starbucks or something.
That consolation pick was corporate communications, a peasant top with hella florals. It fit well enough, but my instinct remained unsatisfied. While I probably wouldn’t return it, it’d leave me wondering what else was out there. But leaving empty handed would render my time wasted, so I swallowed my misgivings and headed to the register.
On my way to the check out line, however, that tribal cardigan caught my eye again, begging another look. In agonizing over the other options, I’d almost forgotten it existed. Nor could I remember why I’d rejected it so quickly. After all, it could’ve been on sale. And the presence of the cardigan magnified the peasant top’s imperfections, making it seem tacky in comparison. Suddenly, I felt like I was settling. Certainly, if I was agonizing so much over the cardigan, it merited closer consideration. If it ended up being too expensive, I could at least wear my peasant top proudly, knowing that I’d fully explored my options.
In the name of due diligence, I checked the price. At $30, it was risky but, if it became one of my staples, a potentially great investment. So I tried it on, twirled around, and damn I looked good in it. It highlighted the blues of my eyes, draped perfectly over my hips. Once I began envisioning future outfits, my decision- my fate- was sealed.
In going to journalism school, I very, painfully, literally bought that comfy tribal cardigan. My post-purchase bliss has me conjuring up countless outfit combinations: voicing social injustices, analyzing political crazy on The Atlantic, covering the Olympics, et cetera.
And if none of those possibilities materialize and the cardigan gathers dust in my closet? I get to go Target again. AKA grad school.