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It’s Good to Be a Work in Progress

It’s okay if life feels messy right now. Here’s how we’re embracing small victories in 2021 and working toward something great.

By Callie Kant

Ahhh—the crisp, invigorating feeling of a new year. Like a blank notebook that cracks when you open it or a clean, freshly starched shirt, it’s ripe with possibility, optimism, and the allure of what lies ahead. After a year of such turmoil, the opportunity to start over feels especially tantalizing. I even spent New Year’s Day burning both sage and palo santo to ward away any negative energy—just to be safe.

And yet, in only the first week, we’ve experienced both dizzying highs and horrifying lows. It seems the world does not abide by numerical calendar changes, and the future continues to be one giant question mark; try though we may, there’s not a whole lot we can do to change that. 

But despite the uncertainty, we didn’t stand still all year, even if it felt that way at times (shelter in place, anyone?). In fact, we actually made some colossal moves. 

This time last year, I reflected on the ways our customers and their interests had been changing. Our community was beginning to work more flexibly—in an expanding array of professions, and from locations as diverse as planes, hotel rooms, and coffee shops. Of course, this sounds almost laughable now—obviously, those locations changed in an instant as we retreated to our homes. But since then, those of us who are fortunate enough to work from home immediately experienced a whole new world of flexible work. Most of us changed the way we dressed—leaning into mullet dressing or joggers—as we buckled down. We learned how to do nearly everything from home: communicate over long distances, interview via Zoom, and even pump while running meetings. Our work lives are unlikely to ever be the same. 

Despite needing to be socially distant, we found powerful new ways to organize and work together. Whether through forming anti-racist book clubs, donating to organizations we believe in, or helping get out the vote, we made change. We voted in unprecedented numbers. We put more women in our government than ever before. And some of us even entered public office ourselves

For the first time in a long time, I feel the tinge of change in the air. It feels good—so deliciously close. And then things happen that feel like monumental steps backward, as they did this week, when a violent mob stormed our nation’s Capitol. There is still so very much to change, to accomplish, that at times, it can make me want to curl up under the covers, paralyzed and without a clue about what to do next. In those moments, I try to hold onto all these good things we’ve achieved under some of the hardest circumstances this year. Maybe they’re small in comparison to the earth-shattering current events we’re experiencing, but baby steps count for something, and these micro-wins are what keep us going.  

Over the next year, as workplaces slowly transition to reopening, we’ll be figuring out yet another new way to work—and a new way to dress for work. Some companies will bring their employees back to the office full-time; some plan on a hybrid workplace of three days working in the office, two days from home; and still others are considering going completely remote. What will this mean for you? How will you connect with your colleagues and advance your careers? If you had to leave your job due to the pandemic, how will you enter back into it—or will you re-enter it at all? What does dressing for this new hybrid lifestyle look like? Will we don our heels again, or have we kissed them goodbye forever? We’re here to figure out the answers to these questions along with you.

Our lives outside of work will continue to change, too. So whether it’s through opening up about our struggles with mental health, our long-standing relationships with our bodies, or our frustrations with our partners, we will do our best to share our (and your) journeys—the little things we’re doing to get closer to our goals, both as individuals and as a brand. To be sure, as in any journey, we’ll make some missteps along the way, and certainly, we won’t come anywhere close to solving everything. But I hope that by sharing these paths, we can continue to build this community—to create connection in a time when we need it so desperately.  

Because that’s the thing about these last twelve months: they’ve pulled back the curtain and allowed us to see inside the homes and lives of celebrities, politicians, CEOs, and our bosses—along with their makeup-less faces, barking dogs, and crying children—all through a Zoom window. What we’ve seen, I think, is that we’re all far from perfect (I’m talking really far). In the end, we’re all just works in progress.

As someone who has long struggled with perfectionism and anxiety, this realization has been a huge one for me. This very real peek behind the curtain hasn’t caused me to think negatively of my coworkers—quite the contrary. Seeing each other’s lives unfold in real time has broadened our relationships and allowed us to see one another as people, rather than just coworkers—and in so doing, allowed me to put less pressure on myself to be some kind of corporate robot.

I have to believe there’s no turning back. Now that employees have seen their colleagues’ personal lives on display, I can’t imagine we’ll ever adhere to the same level of strict professionalism we once did. This could be just the change women need. While they’ve long struggled with balancing their personal lives with their careers, normalizing the blending of the two may mean they have a better chance of succeeding in the workforce. And as the pandemic has openly exposed so many of the ways the system is failing women, workplaces can no longer avoid that change needs to happen. Many employers will offer flexible, hybrid working environments as one way of ushering in that change. It won’t be perfect—not by a long shot. But it may be the first step women need.

In my opinion, the only way to advance is to accept and openly agree that we don’t have the answers, but we’ll work together to do our best. We’re works in progress, and so is our world, but progress is something that can’t be ignored. So we hope you’ll come along with us for the ride—celebrating small victories, getting closer to our goals, and sharing our hopes for the future. One thing that has always bound our customers together is their work, so let’s take this next step together and work toward something great.

Photos by Matthew Priestley.

Written By

Callie Kant

Callie Kant is the VP of Brand & Creative at M.M.LaFleur. She’s worn many hats in her career, but only this one is made of cashmere.

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