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Cleanin' Out My Closet

Remember that metaphorical blog I wrote about my alarm clock? It’s one of my favorites. The times, they are always a changin’, aren’t they.

I usually have Mom and Sean as beta readers before I publish a blog. After she read that one, Mom said, “I like how you ended it. I picture you putting that alarm clock in the drawer to get it out again someday.”

Why are moms always so smart and know everything about their children? Of course I kept that alarm clock. Did you truly think I was going to let go of that pristine Sony from my frosh year of college in 2003? (And did I ever tell you that I used that new one Sean and the kids gave me for a while, but it was way too hard to change the alarm, so yip, I got the Sony back out.)

Okay, okay, I know. Change is hard, dammit! It just is. And no matter how much I say I’ve moved ahead, there’s always the past. It looms just behind me.

In June 2018, after I first woke up from my nightmare, I can see myself looking in my closet and thinking, I guess I won’t need those anymore. And I was honed in on the far right end, where all my suits hung. One was even in a garment bag with the tags still on it. I purchased it right before I got sick and it was never even worn.

I was a trial lawyer. I frequently wore suits. And I had a decent collection going.

I know as I looked at all my lawyer clothes right away in 2018, I told myself no rash decisions, and let things hang. They ended up suspended in time for quite a few seasons. The season of 30lbs of steroid weight; the season of that miracle AE baby; the season of Covid where I never left the house … until this year. In 2022, time began to start moving again. And once more, it asked me to come with.

In probably the last two seasonal purges (if that’s an old lady thing, I admit it, I purge and change out my summer and winter clothes), I got rid of almost all my slacks and blazers from work. But the suits stayed.

Early this summer, I was determined that the entire closet had to go. Anything that reminded me of lawyer days was out. I was almost there. And then I tried on each and every suit, and again, they stayed.

A few weeks ago, I gave a speech out of town. It was at a small university, so I believed it to be important to look more formal rather than less. That thought alone reeked of my past life and job, so I questioned the decision. Yet I dry cleaned and pressed my favorite suit, and I packed it along to wear.

I have never felt weirder than I did in that attire. It told me that I didn’t belong. That I was an imposter or that I was wearing the clothes of a dead woman.

That and the weird hook that “buttons” the jacket, popped while I spoke (maybe that was a personal problem?).

When I got home, I knew it was time. I told myself we’re not in 2017 anymore, Jackie. Things have changed. A LOT. The suits are old. They’re outdated. Not in style – not in your style. They’re unnecessary. And they don’t feel right.

I don’t want them anymore. They can’t stay on hangers. Their time is up.

Things have changed a lot. I’m almost five years away from AE-Day. I’m not thirty-four anymore. I have a new style. Brighter colors. I like navy and highwater pants (ha, yet another blog). I wear brightly colored high tops, the Jordans I longed for since I was a kid, and have custom Unwillable Nikes. I wear bracelets in front of the swimmer girl tattoo. Vintage Elton shirts are right for me and this new life.

It’s no longer necessary to show the world that my dress code means business. Lawyering is no longer my business.

The suits were packed today and will be donated tomorrow. I don’t need their memories anymore. Don’t want ‘em.

Maybe I’ll buy a new one someday. Maybe not.

While out on Friday, a friend was razzing lawyers. And when his wife told him to stop, and pointed at me as the reminder of who he was purposefully offending, he laughed and said, “Yeah, but she’s not a lawyer anymore.” Up to about a hot second ago, that statement would have made me cry. But not that night.

I laughed. I knew what he meant. I’m not stuck in limbo anymore. No more straddling the line (Sweet Jesus, One foot over the line – that was a blog too).

I don’t need a suit and jacket (another blog … is citing yourself cute or gaggy?!) to tell me what I know.

I have the diploma and license. No matter how tucked away they are.

I’m a lawyer. I was and always will be. Still am.

Suits in my closet don’t make or break that.

And time is always marching on. (Okay, for real, last one, but I’m happy because Daylight Savings Time is now over and I know I’m better for it).

If your grief hasn’t allowed you to purge or move forward, that’s alright. There will come a day when your suit jacket will figuratively pop – or in my case, it will pop … a few times – and you’ll know that the time is right, for cleaning out your (literal or figurative) closet.

Sending you love for all your seasons.


"I’m sorry mama I never meant to hurt you I never meant to make you cry But tonight I’m cleanin’ out my closet" ~ Cleanin’ Out My Closet by Eminem


/ / The JM Stebbins blog is an autoimmune encephalitis blog from autoimmune encephalitis survivor, Jackie M. Stebbins.

Jackie M. Stebbins is also the author of, Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim my Brain, a book about autoimmune encephalitis. / /


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