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How A T-Shirt Collection Can Help You Live A Better Life

Been there done that, got the t-shirt.

How many times have you heard that saying? An experience (good or bad) that we go through and collect the shirt as a souvenir.  The other day I was telling my girlfriends I was going on a date. They asked the standard questions… How old? Married? Kids? I told them his age and that he had never been married and no kids.  That is when Heather spoke up and said: “at his age, he should have a couple of those t-shirts.”  We all laughed, and I went on a date.  We had a lovely time, but no second dates in the future.

I have an overstuffed drawer of t-shirts, and although I only wear a few of my t-shirts, I have a hard time getting rid of the other 95% I don’t wear.  Why? Well, I collect the shirts for various reasons, and they each tell a story.  What does your t-shirt collection say about you?

People wear t-shirts to express sports teams, music, cartoons, and political statements.  They are a great way to let the world see a glimpse of your personality.  But it isn’t just the t-shirts we wear that tell our story. What about the metaphoric t-shirts we collect as reminders of the different stages in our journey. 

Concert and Music T-Shirts

I LOVE live music.  There is something magical about being in a space with thousands of people sharing a universal love. The energy, memories, seeing musicians play songs with the words that speak to your soul.  My mom took me to my first concert when I was eight years old, Barry Manilow.  While I didn’t get a t-shirt, I still have the ticket stub.

Unfortunately, my parents didn’t allow me to see concerts until I was an adult.  Looking back, I laugh, Bon Jovi was off-limits, but they were perfectly fine dropping me off at the Denver Coliseum for WWE at the mature age of nine! I have been consistently going to concerts for the last 25 years. And if you were to look at the shirts, posters, and ticket stubs, you could put together the soundtrack of my life.

Fire Department T-Shirts

For a large part of my adult life, my identity was primarily as a firefighter. And wearing t-shirts was an easy way to let the entire world know what I did for a living. But over the years, I hardly wear a fire shirt unless I am actually at work. While the fire department and my career are an essential part of my journey, I am now a much different person.  I prefer to be known as Diane with a career as a public servant.

Competition T-Shirts

I acquired the first competition shirt when I did the Race for the Cure with my mom many years ago.  Since then, I have shirts mostly from Crossfit competitions and obstacle course races.  What I love about these shirts is the accomplishment of meeting a goal—a reminder of my fitness and the courage it takes to compete.  The majority of these competitions I have done post child and post 35 years old.  My motivation to continue collecting these shirts is because I want to stay healthy and fit for myself and be an example for my little man.

Statement Shirts

Maybe it is passive-aggressive, or perhaps it is easier for me as an introvert to express myself by wearing a t-shirt.  When I was in middle school, I would wear “Love Sees No Color” (pissed off my dad).  Now I find myself wearing Nerdy by Nature,” “Tomboy,” “Think Outside the Box,” “Don’t Trust an Atom, They Make Up Everything,” and superhero tees.  This way, when people approach me while in one of these shirts, they have an insight into who I am and my sense of humor.

The Comfort T-Shirt

I am willing to guess that everyone has that one t-shirt that is the “go-to” for sleeping, lazy days, couch time, or sadness.  My favorite is an old faded Led Zepplin shirt that is starting to wear thin in spots, but I won’t give it up. Wearing this shirt is like wearing a hug. I feel safe.

Embrace your life, resiliency, experiences, laughter

The “other” Shirts

As I mentioned earlier, our t-shirts represent who we are and the life we have lived. These metaphoric shirts are the ones I keep as a reminder of my journey. Take a moment to think of the shirts that have defined your life.


Sadly, I know more women who have dealt with sexual assault and harassment than who haven’t.  For me, the first time something inappropriate happened, I was very young. And from middle school through high school with unwanted groping, comments, and situations that were wrong.  I thought it was my fault, and I shamed myself into silence.  As a female in a predominately male profession, there continues to be an undercurrent of hostility towards women.  But as I have gotten older and being inspired by the brave women and men coming forward, I am finding my voice to say “NO” and stand up for myself and my sisters.

I hate my body…

The struggle of loving my body has been real for as long as I can remember.  I used to hide my body in big shirts, flannels, sweatshirts, baggy clothes. The energy wasted thinking I looked fat and unattractive is embarrassing.  Then I see an old picture, and I am like, “damn! I looked good!”  I eat well, work out consistently, and am FINALLY learning to love my body for all the incredible gifts she gives me.

Mom Shirt…

The one thing I have always wanted to be in my life is a mom.  I have the most amazing son.  He is my world, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him.  It hasn’t always been easy, but I am most proud of my mom’s t-shirt.

Marriage T-shirt…

Marriage is hard work.  For many years, I told myself that I am bad at relationships. The reality is that I married for the wrong reasons. Thanks to lots of work, I now understand the life is a puzzle, and you can’t always put the pieces together in the moment.

Embrace your life, resiliency, experiences, laughter

My Tribe T-Shirt

Embracing my imperfections and loving myself “as is” is liberating.  Owning who I am and embracing what I have to offer to the world is changing me daily.  My tribe is no different; it is the law of attraction, the energy I am projecting, I am getting in return.  The men and women in my tribe all have an eclectic collection of t-shirts.  And I LOVE THEM ALL.

NO ONE is perfect, at least no one in my world.  My tribe all has a past and has all made choices with consequences that have sucked. But my tribe also understands that life can’t be full of absolutes and ultimatums. Because life is messy and the more you live a full life, the less black and white life is and more of a grey area.  And let’s be honest, most of us are just winging it anyway. So we don’t judge each other. We love each other.

So here is my challenge to you… Go through your closet and your drawers and look at your t-shirts.  Be proud of where your shirts came from, and let them serve as a reminder of a life well-lived.  Let go of your self-hate, self-judgment, and shame.  Embrace your beautiful mess of life and love in your tribe.

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