Symbolic Attire

I can’t think of too many things more symbolic than wearing a team jersey or uniform and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself. I’ve recently been accepted to a women’s racing team (road, gravel, and mountain biking) and when one of my teammates and friends gave me this year’s jersey, I simply felt like I belonged. Perhaps for the first time in years, I belonged to something bigger than “me.”

There is symbolism in things we wear and put on every day. Wedding rings and bands are symbolic to a deep relationship between two people and whether those people are physically together or not, a bond exists. Men’s ties and other jewelry for men and women often symbolize high status in work or society. Wedding attire- the dress, suit, and tux- is symbolic to a huge life event in many people’s lives. Even the logos that represent the brands and companies that we give our money to say something about us.

There are many examples of symbolism in material things in daily life.

But for me, something clicked just a few days ago and I had a deep recognition of who I am and what I stand for because of that team jersey that was handed to me last month. And with that recognition came a deep sense of responsibility too.

By putting on a team jersey or work uniform you represent that organization, group, team, brand or company. When you wear your uniform or jersey, you’re proud. You’re making a statement to the world that these moments aren’t just about you as an individual, but they are about your team or organization beyond you. (I have to chuckle because maybe this is by default… you need a job and you have to wear a certain uniform for work, even if you hate it. I remember this being the case at times in my life as well.)

When I race, I get to wear my team’s name. When I ride for training, more people will see our logo and colors. I’m one part of a greater whole that matters and is making a difference for women cyclists in my area. One example of how this changes me is that I’m going to go out of my way to follow road rules and practice good bike etiquette, especially when I’m in my team jersey.

So too, the importance of the jersey I get to wear for my team doesn’t end when I take off that shirt at the end of the day. I’m still “me” and I still belong to that group, with or without the name and logo on my back for all to see. I should be practicing those road rules and etiquette always, not just when in uniform.

This idea of belonging AND representing my team well really struck home a few days ago. Whether I’m wearing my jersey or not, I’m still a part of a team and group. And I want to bring honor to the group at all times, not just when I’m riding with the colors and logo of the team.

Whether we recognize it every day or not, we all represent something bigger than us. Our families, schools, churches, teams, places of work all make up pieces of our lives and groups that we belong to. And my realization the other day was this: I belong and don’t want to misrepresent the team that is important to me. I want to build the team up at ALL times.

A side note, I think this is why social media can bring so many problems to people’s lives and why supervisors and companies care about following their staff on social media. The online world matters as much as the behind closed doors, private, offline world.

Awareness of belonging to a team and how to represent that well comes with a growth in responsibility and character. It lasts beyond taking the uniform off at the end of the day. Day-to-day, we need to be aware of how individual actions and attitudes reflect outward on those groups and organizations that we belong to, and to not let wearing a jersey or uniform change how we should be behaving and acting as representatives of our groups and teams. Even our families’ names matter… and to bring honor to our family means acting with wisdom and making daily, healthy choices that help and not hurt our families.

In the end, reflecting on belonging and who I represent matters. I don’t want any organization to be brought down because of me; I only want those I work for and with to be lifted up. As individuals a part of teams, our actions really do matter for the greater good, or downfall if we aren’t careful.

What groups are you a part of? Have you ever thought of how you represent where you work, or the teams you are a part of even when you’re not in uniform? Does this change your perspective on how you move through the world on a day-to-day basis?

“Put the work in now.”

“Put the work in now. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.”

A quote by a friend about three weeks ago in a spin class I haven’t been able to shake. She meant it for biking. She meant it for sweating. She meant it for burning legs and lungs. But I can’t help thinking there was a bigger purpose to those words rattling inside my head these weeks.

Work is good. I love work. I really do. It’s a word that never really scared or felt painful to me. It’s a word that I appreciated. Like I could see the end result of my work before I ever started and that was my motivation to put time, energy, and effort into working toward that THING whatever it was.

Growing up, school was my greatest work and feat, but I always made it through those nine months of school and got to live the achievement with each new grade. Then college and grad school. Both rough, but so good for different reasons. Work in finding and starting some sort of career, still discovering what that means, but I love the journey more each year!

What I really want to talk about though is sports. I’ve always loved sports. My parents were big on getting my siblings and I plugged into sports teams growing up. Kids and adolescents have the potential to learn life changing lessons for the good because of sports. Character, stick-to-itiveness, losing, winning, boundaries (what are they, why are they there?), cheating, teamwork, sometimes being in the spotlight, and sometimes giving that spotlight to others, and lastly showing up to practice even when you don’t want to. When athletes reach a level of skill and honing in on their sports that they can be a leader in their community, or even reaching the highest levels of sports by going pro is a great aim for many kids that carry them through to adulthood. Sports are a powerful part of society and I know I’m a way stronger person because of sports.

I learned to push through physical and mental pain and stress, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll be left behind or won’t reach my goals. And this could be goals in anything! Goals pertaining to relationships, my career, finishing my first triathlon, and being able to run a certain distance, but being able to drop the time.

The key is: part of putting in the work is knowing your “why” as I hear so many coaches talk about. Why the days alone training? Why the early mornings and rigid schedules for your career or athletics? Is it for being the best, so recognition? Is it for more money, so maybe financial security? Is it for staying in good health, so as to live your best quality of life? (Your why should be something meaningful and fulfilling; recognition and fame can be flimsy “whys.” They can be easily taken away. Choose your why wisely.)

My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.

Once you know your why, then putting in the work to get there is the next step. My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t. In the moment, though I was on my bike with the music blaring and lights dimmed as most spin rooms are, my mind was on relationships. I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

Putting in the work doesn’t always look like getting sweaty and “swoll” in an obvious way on the outside. It might look like internal exhaustion and setbacks, but still trekking forward because your goals and dreams matter and you’re standing on your “WHY.” Your why puts those hard days in perspective.

Maybe your goal is to be the top sales person where you work or to earn the title of manager, what do you need to learn and do to get there? Maybe it means saying “no” to late night shows so that you can go to bed on time and wake up ready for a new work day refreshed. If you have actual #relationshipgoals as the trending hashtag circled around the world got posted, what work do you need to put into that relationship now, so that you reach the goal? In some cases the “work” might just simply be stating a prayer to the One Above to guide you in your marriage when things seem to be falling apart.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’m not suggesting that work is all that life is about. It’s not. Life is also about enjoying the good days before you and learning to love the people around you well; it’s about practicing the true art of self-care because you are worthy of love yourself.

However, what I do know is that work is good and when it comes to work, the goals and dreams we hold onto (athletic goals, career goals, travel goals, marriage goals, community goals…) won’t magically appear without effort. And as my friend said that day as I huffed and puffed my way through a 26-mile ride in the studio—if you don’t put in the work now, no matter what your goals are, you’re only cheating yourself.