My younger brother is graduating this weekend, a monumental event, which, sadly, I will be celebrating and observing from afar; he is a mature and intelligent young man, with incredible prospects before, but, admittedly, it does only seem like moments ago that he was shorter than I, looking up for advice and support. It also seems like only moments ago, as opposed to years, when I was accepting my own diploma after that fateful walk, literally across the stage before my peers, metaphorically across an integral stage of my life with my peers. I am still unsure how to best commemorate this moment for my brother, whom I love and respect more than any words can express, though, assuredly, it will not be with a wilting and delinquent used leather handbag.
Around this time, life on a hinge between wonderfully unbridled freedom in some respects and a reality of financial and social independence with all the daunting responsibilities therein, I was submitting my resumé to a bevy of firms, companies, and corporations, varying in size and industry, with the hopes of obtaining admirable and honest employment. As I started receiving invitations for interviews late in the fall and throughout the spring, a rather disappointing amount given the voluminous, exorbitant deluge of applications I spewed forth, my mother was the first to corner me with this advice: find yourself a legitimate briefcase-like handbag to carry your portfolio. Having, until that juncture, relied solely on the impressive impracticality of vintage clutches from the 1950s and 1960s, which could barely consume a compact and a cheap lipstick along with my wallet, her edict and the emphatic method of its delivery were completely valid.
I was at university, living in Ithaca, at the time, so, shopping options for items professional and pragmatic were limited; while hemp-woven clothing and consigned wool pencil skirts abounded, a chic femme-briefcase was the equivalent to a unicorn. In a moment of desperation, days before an on-campus interview, no time to scour various online stores where surely my desire would be easily fulfilled, I journeyed to the local TJ Maxx. Russian roulette shopping, to be sure, however, I found this working-mom-on-the-go-briefcase, not at all my style, but absolutely functional and, when in a crisis, aesthetics must be defenestrated for purpose. The price was right, and the material was a natural caramel leather, so, worse decisions could have been made.
During those first interviews, uncomfortable in my beautiful new suits, carrying a respectable purse that had not been salvaged from an antiques fair may have given me the appearance of some composure, but it did little to calm my nerves and offer solace. There was, also, that obvious display while walking back to my apartment or to the library; clearly, I had just been meeting with a potential opportunity.
Interestingly enough, despite accepting a job and earning at least a reasonable salary for over two years, I did not replace this purse. I did not replace it when I received my first promotion and raise; I did not replace it when the hidden stiff board infrastructure snapped like a cracker and it then assumed a perpetual humble and modest posture, either from shame or veneration. It was not until my mother sought my Christmas list this past season that I finally realized that what had been, at the time, an accessory emergency had, indeed, become an accessory staple.
Simple gold and light cowboy tawny leather, with gold accents, this choice is a bit more of my speed; elegant and professional, and still able to house a portfolio or folder or any other important documents I may need to tote.
My brother has been accepted into a prestigious summer internship program with a large energy company and will return to Blacksburg for graduate work this fall. He has triumphed over numerous challenges, of a greater significance than physical presentation and posturing during the interview, and I am so proud of him.