It's probably pretty silly for me to get choked up about saying goodbye to a suit but I'm feeling pangs of loss as I prepare to bid farewell to a navy blue jacket and pants I've worn for years. It's heading out the door tomorrow.
Although my waist now exceeds the bounds of the suit a decade after I bought it, I've grown in ways that go well beyond my 34-inch belt line. The suit first helped me land a great new job when I chose to change careers -- exiting journalism to serve the Georgia office of the Trust for Public Land as its new public affairs manager. That job gave me the opportunity to help save beautiful places across the state ... from the Chattahoochee River that runs through Atlanta to swamplands in south Georgia teeming with wildlife.
I was wearing the same suit a few years later when I got lucky enough to be hired by Jackson Spalding, a PR firm in Atlanta that taught me more about my new profession in six months than I've learned in any stretch of my second career. It's a good thing I got that call, too. Wearing the navy blues a few weeks earlier, I had abruptly ended an interview for a job with a huge international firm because I realized I really wanted an offer from the local firm across the street. That time in my life gave me the chance to work on the most important thing I've ever done in my professional career -- play a role in a huge team effort to help free a wrongly convicted young man from prison. I wore the suit inside the Georgia Supreme Court the day it heard the case and I happened to be in a meeting wearing the same clothes when word came that the court ruled in the man's favor.
The suit wasn't all work and no play, though. I left work and went out dates and sparked relationships with some great women wearing that suit. I remember them fondly and am grateful for the times we shared.
The tie I usually wear with my lucky blues goes back even further. It was the first grown man's tie I bought when I finished globe trotting after college and became managing editor of Mundo Hispanico, a bilingual newspaper in Atlanta that made such an impact on the community that the Atlanta History Center recently hosted an exhibit about its role in the community. My articles and photographs were featured in several places and I nearly cried as I connected with the Chris Lancette of 15 years ago.
I also chose that suit when I made a trip to Washington, D.C., to interview for my current job with The Wilderness Society. I was sick as a dog at the time and sweating profusely. I closed my eyes before walking over to the office and asked my lungs to give me a break and my suit to cover up the perspiration. Both cooperated, I made it through the afternoon, and got out the door before the non-stop coughing returned and the suit crumpled into a heap of wrinkles.
The Wilderness Society gave me the chance to achieve my dream of living in D.C. Nearly three years have passed since I arrived and the decision to move here remains one of the best I've ever made. I even have a new girlfriend. I wore that suit at the Baltimore ceremony where she became an American citizen. We snapped a few photos and then jumped in to summer clothes so we could take in an Orioles games.
I have other dress clothes, of course, but that navy blue suit always brought me luck. It's too small now, though, and the "buy one, get two free" sale at Jos. A Bank was too good to pass up.
The suit will not disappear, however.
I've recently become aware of the great work performed by Saint Elizabeths Hospital in the District. Taking a tour of the brand new facility last weekend, I saw that it had a thrift store that helps patients obtain additional clothes. The psychiatric patients there are working hard to get their lives on track, and many have gone on to great success over the years. I suspect someone there could use a break.
I pray that the man who wears the suit next finds the same great fortune it brought to me.