While browsing through various booths in the Spitalfields Market in London during the holiday season, my friend, Polly, and I came across a booth selling wide-brimmed wool hats. My eye was immediately drawn to all of the colors: vibrant reds, cornflower blues, forest greens, mustard yellows, rich burgundies.
I've always been a hat-wearer: baseball caps on the farm, cowboy hats for tailgates or concerts, and beanies for cold winter football games. However, I've never worn a hat as a fashion statement. In Arkansas, wearing a stylish hat isn't too common. If you go out wearing a fashionable hat, you'll probably get some attention- not necessarily judgmental or negative attention, but definitely sideways looks or glances. I've always talked myself out of buying a cute hat. I didn't want to stand out.
In the market, I tried on hat after hat, lamenting to Polly how badly I wanted to be a girl who wears hats without feeling self-conscious. She very directly asked me, "Well, why can't you be a girl who wears hats?" As I shared my "hat insecurities" with her, I realized that those insecurities belonged to a girl who had stopped existing around a year and a half ago. Nowadays, I care very little about what people think of my hair, clothes, makeup, or personal beliefs. When you move to a foreign country in which you barely speak the language and you don't know a single soul, you get a little more perspective on what's worth "sweating" over.
Polly and I began to brainstorm things that "the girl in the hat" would do. I suddenly began to feel an entire wall of my insecurities explode into shambles. Buying one of the hats began to feel less about making a fashion statement and more about liberating a piece of myself that I had kept buried for so long. The girl in the hat would notice someone's stare and stare right back. She'd sign up for that scuba diving certification. She'd kiss the handsome Italian she met in Germany. She would spend far less time dwelling on guilt or regret, and instead focus on the growth that bloomed from her biggest mistakes.
I walked purposefully back to the booth, snatched up a beautiful, wine-hued burgundy hat, and handed the vendor my money before I could change my mind. Throughout the rest of our weekend, Polly and I would make references to "the girl in the hat." It became a metaphor for fearlessness.
So as we enter into the brand new decade of 2020, don't let your insecurities keep you from being just a little bit braver than you were last year.
Wear the red cowboy boots, Ted Mosby.
Be the risk taker. The girl who chooses imaginary swords over Barbie dolls. The flight booker. The mountain climber. The supermom. The superdad. The dude with a mullet. The wearer of Crocs.
This year, I'm going to be the girl in the hat.