On Brand

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Later this month, I will mark the first anniversary of my arrival here in Wisconsin. This summer has been challenging for me because of all the work I’ve taken on here, which can sometimes make me feel like I’ve been here all my life taking care of it, but when I’m able to take a step back and think about my adventures here in Wisconsin within the broader scope of my life so far, it kind of feels like I just got here last week. As much as I miss Toledo at times, I’m not making any plans to leave Wisconsin right now, and I’m doing what I can between semesters here to make sure that my second year of teaching in Wisconsin goes even better than my first one did.

When I came here last August, though, I had to do so on a very shoestring budget. Beyond just the cost of travel to get here from Colorado, I also had to face the fact that I didn’t have many of the necessities for living on my own, simply because I hadn’t needed them up until that point of my life. I’d purchased a few of those things while I was living with friends in an apartment in Colorado, but I left nearly all of them behind for my friends to use (and to save packing space for my trip). As much help as I got from other people as I made my way to Wisconsin and got myself set up here, a lot of that work fell on my shoulders.

Moving to a new residence in August comes with one advantage: Most stores are running back-to-college sales on low-cost, basic home furnishings and the like. My personal design aesthetic has always been “first-year college student’s dorm room” anyway, and I wasn’t totally broke, so on the way here I made sure to stop at a Target or two and pick up the things I needed for base survival in my new apartment: Dinnerware and silverware, baking and cooking stuff, cleaning chemicals and the like. The stuff I got wasn’t all that fancy, and not all of it lasted (especially the silverware, which broke on me faster than I thought possible), but it got me through until I started getting paid here and I could afford sturdier stuff for my apartment.

When I first shopped for home basics at Target nearly a year ago, I didn’t exactly have much of a choice when it came to what I picked up. I bought the least expensive stuff I could, of course, but my colour options were really limited. A lot of the stuff I picked up from Target (like my dishtowel and oven mitt) were only available in a vaguely Tiffany-esque shade of blue, and other things I bought (like plates and bowls) only came in a few different colours, so I wound up getting blue things there as well. They did what I needed them to do at the time, and apart from the fragile silverware, I can’t really complain about how any of it has worked out for me so far. At this point, I think I can safely say that I got my money’s worth out of all of it.

That kind of changed after I’d been here for a few months, and I’d gotten paid a couple of times. I didn’t always go for the least expensive option as I fleshed out my kitchen, and not just out of concern for quality. A couple of times as I was buying new stuff for myself, like water bottles, I splurged a little and got something that cost a couple of bucks more, just so I could have something purple around me. (As far as splurges go, this is a fairly inexpensive one to have, but it’s still something.)

While I have a strong personal affinity for purple (maybe not as fervent as that one meme*, but kind of close), I can’t deny that my desire for purple stuff goes beyond a mere aesthetic preference. One of the most annoying things about being an independent author is that we’re all basically expected to promote ourselves all the time (speaking of which, please buy my first novel), and while I hardly walk around wearing all-purple everything, the colour does recur in a lot of the stuff that potential readers/fans might encounter from me, like the header image at the top of the .org and my social media accounts. These things often feel silly to outsiders, and even some of us while we’re doing them, but they’re kind of important for us creators as we develop and maintain “signature” elements about ourselves that make us stand out more by making us more identifiable from something as simple as a colour.

(* I can’t find a copy of the meme right now, but it goes something like this.

People whose favourite colour is red: “I just like red.”
People whose favourite colour is green: “I just think green’s a good colour.”
People whose favourite colour is purple: “TALK SHIT ABOUT PURPLE AND I WILL FUCKING CUT YOU.”)

That’s kind of led to an interesting dilemma these past couple of months, though. Some of that stuff I got from Target is starting to show signs of wear, and even though my normal impulse is to use that kind of stuff until it literally can’t be used any longer (I blame my upbringing for that), there’s a part of me that feels like I need a purple oven mitt, and a purple dishtowel, and a purple (fill in the blank), as quickly as I can get them. I don’t really need them right away, of course, but now that I’m finally at a point in my life where I don’t need to think too much about spending the extra two bucks to get something in purple, I’m starting to wonder what lengths I’ll go to later on in order to get purple stuff when I have a legitimate use for it.

I might have been able to excuse not spending extra money for purple stuff a few weeks ago, after a quick discussion with friends on Facebook helped me realize that I don’t really need fancy dinnerware if I’m the only person who’s going to see or use it. A little over a week ago, though, a power outage on campus resulted in a few of my colleagues coming over to my apartment for a curriculum meeting, and after I cooked for everyone (I am my mother’s daughter), I was forced to use those “dorm room special” plastic plates and bowls with my colleagues, including one of my bosses. Everything went okay, at least as far as I could tell, but there’s definitely a part of me that wished I’d splurged earlier and gotten some really cool purple dinnerware I saw on Etsy recently. Okay, that costs more than a couple of bucks extra than Target plastic plates, but look at it. Look at it.

Once the new semester starts up here next month, and I’m getting those big paycheques again, I may end up taking advantage of sales (especially around the holidays) to outfit my apartment with more and more purple stuff. On one level, it all seems so unnecessary, but I can’t deny that being around purple stuff helps me feel better. Spending two or three extra bucks every now and then (or maybe a little more) kind of seems like a small price to pay for that, and it should help me feel more like this new apartment of mine in Wisconsin really is my home.

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