In college, I lived for nights out. It didn’t matter where I was going so much as that I was there with my friends. We’d go to house parties, dorm room get-togethers, crowded clubs, sushi bars (where we ordered more rounds of sake than actual sushi)—wherever we were going, I looked forward to it. It took me many years to realize it wasn’t the going out part I loved the most. It was anticipation; the process of getting ready. In those days, getting ready for a night out was a ritual that started with blasting the same playlist and ended with taking dozens of selfies with my best friends. In between, there were outfit changes, dancing, and sips of too-sweet drinks taken while applying makeup.
I used to think it was the event itself that made it all feel so magical. But now, after so many months of not getting ready for much of anything, I’ve realized that the ritual that happened before that was special. When I really thought about it, the parties, the bars, the clubs were never, ever as fun as hanging out in my dorm room and listening to Robyn while teaching myself how to blend eyeshadow, or master cat-eye liner. It’s why when I got older, I found the same magic in the same rituals. Maybe this time I was alone in a tiny bathroom instead of a dorm room, but the process was the same.
I’d pour myself a glass of wine (or, if I was getting ready for a big meeting in the morning, a frothy coffee), put on a playlist that made me feel confident, and enjoy the process of treating myself to a bold lip, new outfit, or a fun pair of earrings. The ritual of putting it all together and leaving feeling powerful is intoxicating, even as someone who enjoys makeup-free days in my sweatpants nearly as much. When the pandemic happened, the idea that I wouldn’t have to get ready for anything was appealing for a moment. After all, I was as anxious and depressed about the state of the world as anyone else. The last thing I felt like doing was putting on fake eyelashes or experimenting with a new eyeliner.
But as the months passed and my favorite outfits and makeup started collecting dust, I started to miss the ritual of getting ready. I had grown to know and appreciate a stripped-down, no frills version of my face and my wardrobe, but I craved that powerful feeling. Still, it seemed silly to get ready with nowhere to go, no one to see except my fiancé and my dog (both of whom seem to love me no matter how much time I spend getting ready). I let the idea go for a while, but by the time the new year arrived it was time for a change.
I told myself I would add getting ready back into my daily morning routine. I would play my favorite music or podcasts, sip an iced latte or a smoothie, and enjoy the process of getting ready once again. I would take the time to curl my hair or apply lotion or try wearing a bright lipstick just because. I would take time each day to prioritize this form of self-care not because I have anywhere to go (though I would give pretty much anything to have a round of sake bombs with friends…), but because it makes me feel like a sparklier, more powerful version of myself. Sure, I don’t need the ritual of getting ready each day to make me feel confident or capable, but I deserve to make time for it if I want to—no matter what plans I have.
Maybe I’ll take my new outfit and makeup (and, of course, a mask) to a local coffee shop to pick up a latte, or to browse around Target for a bit. Maybe I’ll go nowhere at all and take selfies at home because I can. The point of this new goal isn’t really to go anywhere or even to look a certain way at all. Instead, it’s about a commitment to myself to make space for feeling good. I’ve only started the process of falling back in love with getting ready for the past month or so, but I already feel a sense of confidence and joy returning that I haven’t experienced in a while. And really, this is what I think of when I think of getting ready in college, or in my early 20s—not dimly lit clubs, or dancing, or exactly what I wore or who I was with, but pure, unadulterated joy.