Cleaning up my Act

The new school year is in full swing, and I basically went into this semester with two glaring goals that I think are semi-related, if you squint hard enough:

1. Be a good student.

2. Don’t look such a dumpy mess all the time.

I don’t think I’ve ever been a particularly bad student, but that depends on how you want to look at things. When I was a freshman, I came in from my year working in Canada refreshed, inspired, and ready to go. I rocked freshman year. I lived on campus, so getting to class wasn’t an issue, and frankly, I didn’t have a whole lot of other things going on in my life. I dressed well everyday (well being a term I use liberally, but I thought I looked great in my button-down/tie/tie-clip/cardigan uniform), I recall starting most of my work well in advance of its due date, I had good relationships with my professors, and I got good grades. Essentially, I was making college my bitch and it felt good.

Then sophomore year I moved uptown, and with the distance and an admittedly rocky living situation, I slipped a little. I still did fine academically, but I started to develop worse and worse habits (regular coffee and Red Bull-fueled all-nighters, for starters), and I started to feel totally uninspired by school. The classes were OK, but NYU isn’t exactly the sort of place where students can expect to be surrounded by other super-motivated, super-prepared students who hold themselves to a particularly high academic standard. That was also around the time that people started reading this here blog, and I’ll admit that that was not only a time-suck, but a huge distraction.

The second half of sophomore year I spent still living uptown, and while I usually regard living alone to be a good thing, there were definitely rough patches of loneliness and depression and more bad habits and just generally feeling really anxious, really depressed, really out of control, and like a really, really, really shitty student. Most of that fairly short but spectacularly crappy period came to a halt pretty suddenly when I up and decided I was going to fall in love. So while I was in a better place mentally, I had a really hard time juggling school, this site, and a budding new relationship that moved really fast. I think I honestly had a hard time understanding why my professors were expecting me to get all this shit done while I was in the midst of also trying to woo my new boyfriend into thinking I wasn’t a total disaster. Didn’t they realize I had better things to do? Miraculously, I skirted by once again with pretty good grades, but I’m not the sort of person who is particularly motivated by letters and numbers on a report card. Particularly when I feel like I’ve done the bare minimum to earn them.

And then there was last year. I’d moved to Brooklyn, Max had moved in, I started a new job at school, I still had the blog, and my classes were a mixed bag of stuff I really wanted to take and stuff I felt like I should take but wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about. I wanted to be better, but I’ll be honest—it was hard. The early months of cohabitation are difficult and confusing enough on their own, but combined with having to write essays about LEED-certified skyscrapers or whatever, trying to turn a pretty run-down apartment into something nice, and learning the ropes of a new job? I tried to keep school front and center, but I found it often taking a backseat. I generously took advantage of deadline extensions, and sometimes even extensions of my deadline extensions. Miraculously, my grades were fine, again, but with each passing semester, I felt like more and more of a fraud as a student. And I hated feeling that way.

And then last semester happened. The one where we got a dog at the beginning, and then at the very end, found a second one. Dogs are great, and I’ll never regret either of those decisions for a minute, but all of a sudden there was another thing to negotiate. Except this one didn’t grudgingly give extensions or allow itself to have a low rank on my list of priorities. It was amazing and terrifying at once, and coupled with more classes I really didn’t care about with students who also really didn’t care, last semester certainly wasn’t any easier. I pulled off good grades again, but felt just as crappy as if I hadn’t. Same story, different circumstances.

I’m tired of that. I’m ready to not do that anymore. I feel as though my life has stabilized a lot over the past few months, and I’ve gotten much more fluent at negotiating the responsibilities I have, appreciating how long it takes me to actually complete tasks, and planning accordingly. I’m not going to lie and say I’m some perfect human who’s managed to make my life run like clockwork (far from it). But the point is, I’m ready let go of some of that feeling of OMG I’M A FAILURE I’ve had in the past and just be better and see where it takes me. I’m at a place where I don’t give a shit what other students around me are doing or how they’re acting—I just want to be engaged, prepared, and do my best. Which, thus far, I’m fairly certain has established my role as the most annoying person in the class, and I fucking love it.  That’s never really been me before, so it’s a fun thing to try out.

Which brings me back to clothes, because why not? I tried to think back honestly to what I did moderately well as a freshman (or at least attempted to do moderately well), and aside from staying organized and making lists constantly and being a more engaged and prepared student, one of those things was not going to class (or anywhere else) like I just crawled out of a crypt.

Now, I will never claim to be a particularly stylish person. But a good friend recently told me that instead of thinking of myself as a body with a face (neither of which I can really do much to change), maybe I should look at myself instead as a design object. I like that a lot.

I am a small guy. I’m only about 5’7″, I weigh about a buck 20, and sometimes even a men’s size 7 shoe is too big. If I were a room, that room would probably be small and awkward and couldn’t exactly rely on its architecture to look put together. That room would need to be particularly careful, otherwise it would look a damn mess. And the temptation with rooms like that is definitely to not give a shit them at all and do the bare minimum with the cheapest materials possible to make it look OK enough instead of even trying to turn it into something kind of nice. That’s basically how I’ve been approaching dressing myself.

What I’m trying to say is, I actually like clothes, but the combo of being too poor to buy them and too small for them to fit 99% of the time makes the act of actually dressing myself essentially an extended exercise in disappointment and despair. So, as a first step of being a better student and more competent person is, again, to not do that anymore. 

A good first step to that, I think, is splurging (or not splurging—more power to you!) on one versatile item that will last a long time, can be worn throughout most of the year, and has zero qualities you dislike about it. For me, that’s this cardigan I picked up this weekend at Steven Alan. With the soft charcoal grey wool and PERFECT raw wood buttons, it’s officially my favorite article of clothing. I don’t mind wearing basically the same thing everyday, which is convenient because I’ll probably be wearing this everyday until June. Maybe July.

The great thing about neutral cardigans is that you have a lot of options for what goes underneath, from t-shirts to button-downs. Today I’m wearing my red and white striped Marimekko shirt I bought in Finland underneath, which is nice since I’ve decided I can’t take myself seriously wearing it alone since I’m always waiting for the “I found Waldo!” joke.

I tried to take pictures of myself with this clothing on my body, by the way, but I’m not quite ready for that. I need to work on my apathy-face and what to do with my legs/arms/hands.

Also, I BOUGHT REAL SHOES. This is the part where I confess that I have basically worn Chuck Taylor’s, more or less nonstop, since 2005. I’ve been trying for years to find a good pair of everyday shoes that aren’t sneakers, but I always come up dry and just buy another pair of Chucks (or, this summer, when I was feeling adventurous, I bought a pair of Jack Purcell’s instead). Every single time I like a good-looking pair of shoes in a store, they either don’t come in my size (many men’s shoe companies cut off at size 8), are sold out, or look completely absurd on my body. I swear, my feet/legs do something to shoes that is supremely unflattering to both. So I finally gave in and joined the impressive ranks of Brooklyn-dwelling hipsters who wear Clarks Originals (the “Jink” style, in a color I can’t find on their website), and so far I’m down with these shoes. They’re comfy and make me look less like a child, despite that they’re super low and definitely don’t do me any favors in the height department.

I keep looking for a good bag, and I’m really into this Filson tote (I think it’s this one, but I guess I got it on sale and I don’t see this color on the website…). It’s big enough to hold everything I need to bring to school and back, but not so big that I feel stupid carrying it places where I don’t need as much stuff. Filson bags also have a lifetime warranty, so even though it wasn’t too much money, I do feel like I’ve invested in a quality item instead of another mediocre thing from Salvation Army or Urban Outfitters. Man bag? Murse? Do I care? I am gay and I live in Brooklyn, of course I do not care.

And I kind of started to wear glasses. Sometimes. I do actually have a prescription for distance, albeit a fairly weak one, so for me glasses are something akin to high definition TV versus standard. More importantly, they accomplish what we all wanted in elementary school but swore up and down we didn’t want: to look smarter/cooler or whatever. Something about putting on a pair of thick-framed glasses signals to my brain both that I have one, and that I’m ready to use it. Also, I think they look pretty good on my face, which never happens since my face is, unsurprisingly, very small.

So yes, aside from the part where they give me superhuman vision, they’re 100% stupid and I love them.

I already know this year will be full of new challenges and new anxieties and a ton of hard work, but something very small and very superficial about clothes is making me feel a little more prepared to take them all on.


Here’s an awkward photo taken of me yesterday wearing 2 of the 5 items mentioned in this post. That’s the best I got, for those who need the full visual. (+ cute dog)

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 9.18.12
    kory said:

    but why no picture of YOU being all cool in your new outfit? :)

    • 9.18.12
      Daniel said:

      I swearrrrr I tried to take one (I took many!) but they all came out blurry or way too awkward to post, so I just stripped naked and took pictures of the clothes instead. Self-modeling is hard work! It’s really awkward for me to even post pictures of my clothing, let alone my BODY in those clothes, I’m sorry!

      There, I put one up for you, sort of, because you asked nice.

    • 9.18.12
      Bernadette said:

      I know this wasn’t the point of the post because you didn’t even post a picture of yourself originally, but you look great! So cute, especially with Mekko posing so perfectly :)

    • 9.19.12
      kory said:

      I’m so honored that a post on this here blog got edited because *I* asked, that I’m quite speechless. You two look great. It’s not just buying a great piece, you have to know HOW to wear it, and that’s where I usually fail, but you’re doing great :D

  2. 9.18.12
    Cat said:


  3. 9.18.12
    Amber said:

    Love the style choices as always and the decision to dress a little sharper to help your mood and help you feel prepared for life. I work from home and while the initial temptation to live in pajamas is strong, one must not give in because permanently feeling schlubby is well, terrible. It is interesting to see this post though because you always looks so adorable and handsome whenever you post photos. I guess it’s just more proof that you’re a real person and not some mythical perfect blog unicorn being (though honestly it really seems that way).

    Thanks for sharing!

    • 9.18.12
      Daniel said:

      Ha! But I basically never post pictures of myself, usually because I think I look so homely all the time!

      (A couple friends have now told me that I overstated my dumpiness in this post…maybe it’s more a state of mind. Or they just don’t pay close enough attention.)

    • 9.18.12
      kelly w said:

      Overstated Dumpiness is the name of my next band. I’ll send you the royalties.

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      HAHA! I love that. All the best with your (our) new venture!

    • 9.19.12
      susan said:

      homely? do you not OWN a mirror? you, sir, are the antithesis of homely.

  4. 9.18.12

    I always saw you as a type of Superman really; always amazed at how you could juggle so many things and still be awesome at all of them. This post is inspiring.

  5. 9.18.12
    bfish said:

    Aww, that’s such a great dog accessory — you both look real sharp.

    I’m getting a sense that you have some guilt (maybe largely subconscious) feelings about getting good grades without totally busting your ass to do so. I can relate, and admire you for your self-awareness in deciding to up your efforts to put more into, and get more out of, school than may be absolutely necessary to be successful (as measured by grades). It’s another demonstration of your maturity that you’ve figured this out. Thanks for sharing.

    • 9.18.12
      Daniel said:

      Oh, I’m Jewish, I always have guilt!

      But yes, you’re right. To be honest, NYU is not a very hard school. At least that’s been my experience. I don’t think I’m exceptionally smart or anything, but I do think the expectations aren’t terribly high, and I’ve been able to do very well when I pour my heart and soul in, and I’ve been able to do very well when I put almost nothing in. So really what I’m left with is what I feel I’m getting out of it and the extent to which I can actually stand behind the work I’m producing—that’s how I measure my academic success (or success in anything, I guess). You could look at my transcript and say I’ve been a good student throughout college, but that just isn’t how I’ll ever see it. Which isn’t to say I’ve been terrible at everything—at the end of the day, a lot of this was about making choices and compromising, and for better or worse, there were moments where I definitely made personal decisions that did not jive with my academic requirements. One day I’ll probably stand by those personal decisions and forgive myself for the academic “lapses,” but right now I wish I had done it ALL a little better! And, it probably goes without saying, but it feels totally shitty to not feel like I’m taking FULL, COMPLETE, 100% advantage of this amazing opportunity I have, which is to get an education at a great institution. Feeling in the past like I’m wasting that is a horrible, horrible feeling.

      Thanks, by the way, bfish. :-)

    • 9.19.12
      Melissa said:

      I, too, am Jewish. I always have guilt. And anxiety.

      Reminds me of this essay!

    • 9.21.12
      bfish said:

      Daniel, I’m honored that you replied to my comment as I really admire your writing as well as your commitment to doing things right and with integrity. Many, many years ago I attended a very academically-oriented school with a reputation for being super-tough — and graduated in 3 years instead of 4 (only a slightly above-average academic record though). People tend to be impressed with my alma mater, particularly if they see the years of attendance and learn I graduated “early” — however I don’t take much pride in it because I basically goofed off as much as one could in that environment.

      I’m far less subject to guilt than the average person, but I try not to be a hypocrite and therefore realize that I didn’t exactly “maximize my potential” at that point in life, so no way can I feel all big-headed about my academic “achievements” no matter what others think!

  6. 9.18.12
    Celeste said:

    I remember reading a post on The Sartorialist a while back where he commented on “how a few years in the city [NYC] can completely change a person’s look” and reading this post that line popped back into my head. Obviously, I didn’t/don’t know you and therefore can’t judge your look now versus when you first started living in New York, but I suspect this is the case.

    For a while, reading this post I thought you were going to end it off with closing down the blog so you can focus on your studies. Thankfully it didn’t come to that for my sake. I’ve been reading for a while now and I’m deeply envious of your thrifting skills. I never seem to have that much luck out here in Vancouver :)

    Have a good school year!

    • 9.18.12
      Daniel said:

      Ha, I don’t know about that, re: the Sartorialist post…I guess that’s true for some people, I’m sure, but I think for me it’s more just been a function of growing up! I moved to New York when I was 19…I think I’ve always had a pretty consistent personal style, at least since high school, but what changes are trends, the amount of effort I’m putting in, and how much money I have to buy clothes. My main “fashion” goal is basically to not make a fool of myself, so I usually resort to things that are pretty conservative and kind of boring. I have a weird body type (I know, who doesn’t, yeah yeah), so it’s taken a lonnngggg time to figure out what works for me, and I’m definitely still learning. I don’t think any of that stuff really has to do with New York at all.

      I will say, though, that moving to New York is rough on a person’s body image, at least that’s been my experience. There are just so many beautiful people around all the time, dressing in ways I could never pull off, and it does lead to a certain amount of defeatism for people, like me, who don’t fit the “gorgeousness” mold—which I think leads to the whole lack-of-care-or-effort issue. Rationally, I know I’m not, like, completely wretched looking, but there is nothing like a few blocks walking in Soho to make me feel like an impossibly tiny, out of shape, exceptionally ugly troll. I’m not saying that to make myself sound super tortured (I’m not) or to elicit compliments (I never believe them, anyway!), I’m just saying it because I think there is a HUGE HUGE HUGE flip-side to the whole “glamorizing New York as a place where people necessarily become stylish!” thing—namely, the people The Sartorialist would never, ever look at and think to photograph. I fit solidly into that category—which is not something I’m ashamed of, it’s just something that’s true and I’m OK with being honest about.

      I’ve rambled. What else is new. Ha! And no, the blog isn’t going anywhere, I want it to be better than ever this coming year! Some exciting things have been happening behind the scenes that I’m excited to share :-)

  7. 9.18.12
    Joy said:

    Looking good! And the cardigan is perfect–you’re right about the buttons.

    I too have tried to enhance my look in a natural transition this year, and I believe with some success. I work fulltime in a coffee shop, and although I did not dress poorly before, just a few alterations, some lipstick, and accessory decisions has really changed how my customers address me (now with more courtesy).

    There is definitely a social commentary in there about how people treat others based on appearances (a good argument I will choose not to take up this time), but regardless of all that, I believe a self-assured person receives more respect. Ultimately, you are doing what you need to do to feel confident when you step out the door each morning, and that is a good and proactive choice.

    • 9.18.12
      Daniel said:

      You’re so right, Joy! I don’t think much about how other people treat me based on my appearance—since I’m pretty sure I’m always my harshest critic, anyway—but feeling more put-together definitely helps how I feel internally. And that doesn’t just start and stop with clothes! I guess I’m embarking on the man-version of what you’re doing…trying to take better care of my skin and not letting months lapse between haircuts, particularly, have been big ones for me.

  8. 9.18.12
    Jess said:

    Wow! You look really great in that last photo! …Like REALLY great! I can totally relate when you say NY is rough on a persons body image. Sydney & Melbourne are like that for me. Thankfully I don’t live in either city and the fashion sense in my town is a little lacking. The more it lacks, the more comfortable I am in my own skin though!

    I know you probably wont believe it when anyone tells you you’re attractive, but you should. You should own it. Find some fun clothes & accessories that make you feel great and keep them at hand for days when everyone around you looks like they stepped off the catwalk. The more consecutive days you have where you feel good about yourself, the easier it is to get through the bad ones :)

  9. 9.18.12
    jodi said:

    you, sir, are adorable.

  10. 9.18.12
    Maya said:

    oh, you are so cute..

  11. 9.18.12

    Well, you know I can talk about this stuff all the time…the psychology of fashion and the woes of having a sense of style thwarted by poor body image.

    So yeah, we’re our own design projects. You get what you get and then you make the most of it. Getting older and falling apart makes it harder. (Or so I’m finding.)

    NYC does have a lot to do with it, I think. I pretty much spend every subway ride comparing myself to every other human on the train, and by the time I’m at my stop, I’m pretty sure I’m a mutant and that I should have kept a spare burlap sack in my purse (woman bag/wurse) to spare the rest of humanity.

    But, you know…at least I took a shower yesterday, so there’s that. And I have cool shoes.

    We are both capable of so much. Go do awesome shit, Daniel, and look good doing it, too.


    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      And same to you! (TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION)

    • 9.19.12
      kory said:

      So true about the commute. Thankfully I put an end to that when I started reading instead of listening to music.

  12. 9.18.12
    Jenn said:

    Redefining the focus.

    There’s a phrase I like, it’s totally archaic, and people give me odd looks if I talk about it out loud:

    “In a workmanlike manner.”

    I love this phrase. Whenever shit gets away from me, I can mentally intone it and just get back to work.

    Not sure if you will think this relates to your post, but there we are.

  13. 9.18.12
    Wendy said:

    Looking Spiffy!!!

    You made wise choices (In my humble opinion) – a good sweater / cardigan, stripes, and canvas tote. They may not be cutting edge – but nothing says put together than good, classic, fitted pieces. The glasses are super cute in that bookish, but not trying too hard young guy kind of way.

    It took me forever to realize that good fitting clothes can make you feel much better than whatever is new – (probably having to admit that my mother was right about her classic wardrobe was what held me up). You look great – I wish you all the best in school this year – NYC has a way of being distracting sometimes – but you know – it snaps you right back – in a good way.

    Have an awesome year Daniel!!

  14. 9.18.12
    Milly said:

    You are super cute in the last pic!

    I love the fall, it always seems to inspire change and a yearning to start fresh. I hope the changes you are making help you feel happier :-)

  15. 9.18.12
    Keith said:

    I don’t see any awkwardness at all and I think you can wear many more things than you think. Keep up the great work…and the new attitude!

  16. 9.18.12
    Heidi said:

    Awwww….you’re totally adorable! You’re great!

  17. 9.18.12
    What a great look! said:

    I love that you are smiling so warmly and did not work on the apathy-face! You look great! :-)

  18. 9.19.12
    Katie said:

    RELATING. I work in a scene shop sometimes, and I had to make a new rule for myself: if there’s paint on the clothes, you cannot wear them outside the shop. I am also getting more into fashion after years of pretending I didn’t care, frustrated by plus size clothes.

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      OMG, yeah, I try to only paint in special paint clothes, but I swear…1/3 of my things have paint on them SOMEWHERE. It’s so mysterious and so frustrating.

    • 9.19.12

      I’m so with you two!
      In affordable fashion world tall women are big and small women are skinny. Still, I am tall and slender… and so glad about my sewing machine! Fitting clothes is quite easy in most cases, so usually, when I look as if I came right out of the crypt, that’s on purpose.^__^
      But with size 12, I still belong to the Chuck Taylor clique. But I spend two years looking for at least one pair of grown up, feminine, black quality shoes for those grown up situations. Only two years. And they almost fit.
      So greetings from another size weirdo!

    • 9.24.12
      Ryan said:

      As a tall but only moderately slender woman I have issues with finding clothes that are more related to my not knowing what I look good in and feeling awkward and unstylish is most everything.

      I wear an 11 in shoes and have completely given up on shopping in a store and yea for the internet! Many of my shoes are purchased through Nordstrom (free shipping now!) and I sort by size at the beginning so I don’t even look at the shoes that aren’t available in my size. I have lots of girly shoes, I’m still working on the clothing choices.

  19. 9.19.12
    frances said:

    holy crap… look fantastic! just the beginning of a new look for you and your choices were right on. keep it up every day. mekko of course wears her look sublimely and it fits her perfectly. you’re a joy to read.

    • 9.24.12
      Jen said:

      I totally relate. I’m tall, slender, and all leg. Everyone assumes I can easily find clothes that fit like a dream, but my body type is actually more of a nightmare in affordable fashion world. I literally have a (small) closet full of ill-fitting clothes that I hate wearing. I know that mass produced clothes really don’t fit anyone well, but at least my shorter, more proportionately built friends have options to alter some things. It’s awfully hard, though, for me to have, e.g., sleeves lengthened, or the position of the waist on a dress altered. The effect is that even when I make an effort to look put together, I still look schlubby because the clothes obviously don’t fit right. Oh well!

    • 9.24.12
      Jen said:

      Oops, that was meant to be a reply to Zettelwirtin!

  20. 9.19.12
    Louise said:

    Aww, you look adorable ^^

    And I can totally commiserate. Agonizing over outfit choices, then switching out something, then switching it in again, always makes me run late >_<

  21. 9.19.12
    stef said:

    I just want to say huge congrats for refocusing on your academics while there’s still time. My laziness towards college is my most significant life regret.

    A bit like you, I very easily got into a pattern of never really trying, but doing *well enough*. Now that I’m quickly approaching 30 I look back on that time in my early twenties and feel like I had so much time and energy that could have been devoted to classes, grades, and internships that would have led me into a better version of my career path. I genuinely say this without a “trust me I’m older and I know” tone, but college has a way of feeling like a very busy time and then you’re done and faced with so many new things and you look back thinking “dear god I really had a lot of free time back then.” Best of luck being engaged, prepared, and trying your best!

    And, of course, you look quite handsome.

  22. 9.19.12
    Jay said:

    First of all, you lived in Regina?! What the hell were you doing there? (I grew up in Saskatchewan.)

    Secondly, love the ‘new’ look. I often feel more focused when I put myself together. I suppose it might feel like I’m taking myself a little more seriously. I’m in the process of renovating my wardrobe – a move from West Africa to Norway requires that to happen. It’s more difficult than I thought – and more expensive.

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      I worked for a little film production company up in Regina! I wrote about it a little bit here.

      Saskatchewan –> West Africa –> Norway?? You’re like Carmen San Diego!

    • 9.19.12
      Jay said:

      SK–>Alberta–>West Africa–>Norway

      Thanks to you “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?” is being repeated in my head.

      Who knew there was a film production company in Regina?! I wish you were full time blogging then – those posts would have been hilarious!

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      I actually *did* have a blog back then (that was co-written by a friend), but it wasn’t very good. The whole thing is private now, if it’s even still online…

      Yep, there is actually a lot of film and tv production in SK…until very recently, the government provided tax incentives to spur the industry, so many international productions would come there to shoot. The company I worked for made mostly TV series, direct to DVD and straight to TV movies, sometimes with limited theatrical releases (along with a commercial or two now and then). But the production values were always very high and the film industry is a really great, tight-knit, and skilled group of people. Sadly the conservative government recently (and very stupidly) eliminated the tax incentives, so the future of the industry in that province is sort of up in the air right now.

      It really was a fun place to be for a year, honestly, and unlike anywhere I’d lived before or have lived since. Someday I’m sure I’ll write more about it, whether that’s on this blog (probably not) or in another capacity. I got some stories to tell, haha.

    • 9.20.12
      Jay said:

      Damn conservatives.

  23. 9.19.12
    Liz said:

    Like others, I applaud your desire to get everything that you can out of school while you’re there. But as a somewhat recent graduate of NYU, I can tell you I had a similar experience: I was unimpressed with the curricula, unimpressed by my cohort, and realized the motivation to succeed had to come from inside (my husband and I also both found it easy – and we’re not geniuses – neither of us studied once in undergrad, because whatever you gleaned from sort-of paying attention in class, was enough to write your papers and take your tests and get grades you were proud of – what’s with that?). However, in hindsight I find that the thing I most appreciated about NYU was that I had the best of both worlds: I was taking classes that I was interested in, occasionally, and meeting professors who inspired me occasionally – but better yet, I was living my life and school didn’t completely take over. I, too, lived in Brooklyn and looked at school like my part-time Manhattan job. I didn’t half-ass it, but it wasn’t the only priority in my life. I had another job that had nothing to do with my major and taught me how to be accountable as an adult. I ate at restaurants that weren’t the dining hall or Taco Bell. I lived in an apartment with people who were different than me, not just other college kids smoking pot. And that’s just what was right for me – I am sure the all-inclusive college campus experience is the right thing for some. But NYU is not a school that holds your hand, and the benefit is the freedom to explore and experience things other than NYU while you’re there. Good luck to you, Daniel – I hope you can find balance in New York. You have so much to share and teach and learn, and there is a happy medium in there somewhere!

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      Ditto. I’ll be clear: I am SO GLAD I GO TO NYU. But it isn’t really NYU itself that makes me glad to go to NYU. I don’t think I could have the life that I have if I had gone to most other schools, and building that life, for me, has been the most important part of my college years. I don’t want anybody to hold my hand, but I guess I do sometimes wish that I didn’t feel like a total oddball for actually doing a reading assignment or getting an A on a paper, or feel like my shitty paper was the most exceptional thing anybody turned in. I know that makes me sound like a pompous asshole, but this has happened, and it isn’t because I’m brilliant. It’s because nobody else is trying.

      I know I’ve made it sound like I half-assed school for three or four semesters, but that’s not really true. In the past, I’ve often been guilty of skimming (or skipping) reading assignments, simply because there are no repercussions for skipping them. When it comes to bigger assignments, I’m actually kind of a perfectionist (when it comes to written work in particular), so one of the hardest things about NYU is feeling like I could get the same grade on a paper with half of the work and half of the quality. But I’m basically unable to work less hard on something simply because I know that I’ll still get by. That’s just not how I operate, even when I try! (Yes, I have even TRIED TO NOT TRY. How ridiculous is that?)

      I think that’s why my professors have been understanding when I need extensions, because they know that I actually am working hard and will actually produce something really good if given a little more time. What I’m trying to get away from is falling into that trap in the first place, and get better at balancing everything so that I can start things sooner and finish them in a way that I can be proud of and feels genuine and polished. At the end of the day, I’ve realized that it really doesn’t matter to me what anybody else is doing (not much), what’s expected of me (not much), or what the grade might be (generally, too high and often undeserved). So I need to start grading myself. Last semester, I got straight A’s, but I’d really give myself a C. Ultimately, I actually think that intrinsic motivation is a super handy life skill, but it’s taken a while for me to figure that out.

    • 9.19.12
      Liz said:

      Sounds like my college years, precisely. Trying not to try: tried it! Kicking butt at other parts of life because winning at school is too easy when no one else tries: did it! Sounding like a pompous asshole: done!

      Still some of the best years of my life. Go Bobcats/Violets!!

  24. 9.19.12
    furpants said:

    I would totally hit that.

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      Ha! I’ll let you know if I suddenly become single, furpants ;-)

  25. 9.19.12
    Nancy said:

    Great post and thoughtful comments.

    And you look terrific!

  26. 9.19.12
    paige said:

    Love the look! Love the glasses….hated mine when I first had to get a prescription, but now see them as part of ‘my design’….you described how so many of us feel when we get up in the morning – distressed that we somehow didn’t morph overnight into what we would like to see in the mirror – and then we have to dress the disappointment – but when I no longer look closely at myself but more at how to put together a charming outfit to dress a woman with decidedly ‘corgi-esque’ legs and manage the design. I then feel more in control and can almost face the beautiful people here in California! Thanks for sharing – you always know just what to say!

  27. 9.19.12
    Mariane said:

    Daniel, you are dreamy cute! I totally understand how much we feel so much more powerful when we feel good in our own skin/clothes. I had my hair cut last month and went wild saying to my hairdresser do whatever, I now look like someone I am not, I hate this! I totally lost my mojo!

  28. 9.19.12
    Lauren said:

    You look great! That sweater was an ideal investment – it looks fabulous on you. Of course, the cute dog doesn’t hurt the overall look :)

  29. 9.19.12
    Heather said:

    The man with the plan. You are looking super spiffy.

  30. 9.19.12
    Andrew said:

    Is it just me, or does Mekko’s expression kind of say…”Squirrel!”

    Seriously, the thing I enjoy about your site is that is not just a home decor/DIY blog, but rather it’s a lifestyle blog. And as crazy and hectic as it is, you have a very interesting outlook. Thanks for sharing!

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      OMG, that’s exactly what it says! She is CRAZY about squirrels right now…I think because they’re all doing their crazy manic autumn thing. She wants to destroy them all.

      And thank you, that’s very nice of you to say!

  31. 9.19.12
    Jo said:

    I love your choices and think you’re a pretty cute guy. Here is my suggestion. Lose the skinny pants and try something a little more like a classic straight legged trouser. Think chinos. I know it will feel huge and floppy at first but I think it will compliment your overall proportions. Love your blog, love your dogs, love your indefatigueable willingness to dive into huge projects!

  32. 9.19.12

    It is amazing to me how often I very strongly relate to you on some of these more personal posts – even though I am a straight female living in LA. I feel like my similarly awkward body would equate to a circular room with one sharp angled corner as I somehow seem to have pointy parts and round parts and still stuggle with how to dress myself.

    I do think a lot of it is mental, because as you can see by all these comments, we all think you are just adorable (and not in the “aw look at that little guy kinda way” but in an adorable-handsome sort of, “how do I get my husband to dress like that” way.) That being said, I again totally understand. A lot of us may look seemingly normal/fine/un-awkward in a crowd, but inside we know that flattering shoes are impossible to find and finding clothing that doesn’t accentuate those odd parts is like finding $20 perfect condition Eames louger at a thrift store (even though I continue to look).

    On the academic front I also greatly relate. In college I got near a 4.0 but as you mentioned, numbers and letters on paper don’t mean a thing if your heart isn’t in it. As the years went by I got more and more apathetic, focusing on things outside of my schooling and ended up getting a major that I felt would get me a “real job” and not necessarily something that I loved. And that is exactly what a got. Here I am now a few years out of school, working a desk job which I loathe and while it pays too well to just up and leave, I have since decided to go back to school to give it another go. I just started my second semester and find myself being much more passionate and enthusiastic and will hopefully one day make the transition to a “real job” that doesn’t just pay the bills but is something that I love. I just wish I would have wised up earlier, but I definitely have a different level of appreciation and devotion because of my first college experience.

    Good for you though, seriously, for being able to look at yourself in such a way that you can see what you want to do and be, and making the decision to re-direct yourself in that way. It’s so much better to do that now instead of after you are in school, believe me – plus if you go back to school that ends up being pretty expensive, less money to spend on furniture finds and fixing up the home.

    To end my ramble.. you are handsome and you and your family are my favorite.

  33. 9.19.12
    Paul said:

    What color are your Jinks? Olive Nubeck or Taupe Distressed?

    • 9.19.12
      Daniel said:

      I guess Taupe Distressed?

  34. 9.19.12
    Miriam said:

    Looking good! As you dive into senior year and get ready for whatever comes next (I know it’s horrifying to think about, so avoid it as long as you can), a good biz-casual wardrobe will take you far.

    My boyfriend is built similarly to you, though a bit taller, and he swears by Uniqlo for button-front shirts (not too spendy) and Epaulet for shirts and pants (quality but serious $$). He makes the Uniqlo/Epaulet pilgrimage at least twice a year– and we live in DC.

  35. 9.19.12
    Par said:

    Ah, see? You are a handsome young man. And your compassion for animals makes you irresistible. A young police officer in our town rescued a kitten that has fallen into a 12 foot pipe / hole and then promptly adopted it when no one claimed the kitten as theirs. They’d been through an ordeal together and had bonded! Once the local media got a hold of that story, he became the most sought after young man in town. It’s not just what’s on the outside …

  36. 9.19.12
    Tisha said:

    Just read the Buffalo guide on Design Sponge and saw the shout-out to you. Now it all makes sense since Tim Tielman is your boyfriend’s dad. What a great connection to Buffalo and a nice to see Max’s glowing guide – I feel the same way!

  37. 9.19.12
    Julie said:

    Dear Daniel, I adore you. That is all.

  38. 9.20.12
    nicolezh said:

    Daniel, you look great, the cardigan is such a beautyfull piece and Mekko is adorable as allways!
    As usual your blog kicked my ass getting things also done. My to- go outfit is jeans, black sweater and cat fur. Lots of cat fur, to be explicit. I desperately need some new nice things as a gained a little bit and don’t fit right now in the nicer stuff I allready have. I hate shopping for clothes as I usually pic some interior stuff or a new lipstick instead of much needed clothes…

  39. 9.20.12
    Rachel said:

    I found that dressing nice for school really helps me stay prepared for the day. If I dress like I rolled out of bed, I tend to act that way. So, dressing like a rocking student also has the same effect.

  40. 9.20.12

    Love this post from you! Always love to see what people are wearing, your glasses look great! This classic, stripey, red white and blue type of dressing is exactly what im thinking for fall too!

  41. 9.20.12
    Jenifer said:

    When I was in University, I found it much the same.What is great about that time is that I did learn a lot of skills — both in university classes as well as life in general — and I got to spend a lot of time learning about myself and my passions. I am self-employed, now, based on those passions and stuff, so it all works out in the end, honestly.

    In terms of style, I have discovered that a uniform and capsule wardrobe is just what works for me. By keeping it minimal, I keep it very simple and easy to use — and everything has a purpose. I don’t buy it unless I *love* it, and usually that I love lasts an eternity, which means I’m not spending tons each year on clothes. I spend it on shoes because I wear shoes hard (and therefore, wear them OUT). But having a simple, accessible style is easy.

    This year, my project has been hairstyles. Two years ago, I got The Best Hair Cut Ever. It’s beautiful if I wake up in the middle of the night and run out of the house because of a fire drill — it’s that good of a cut. And I got to know it with my usual hair styles: down, pony tail, and braid. But this year, I wanted some glamour and got into hair-styles. I have 4 hairstyles now, which I rotate through my wardrobe. How fancy am I?

    But I do feel better. More stylish at least.

  42. 9.21.12
    Ben said:

    Has Max influenced your personal style?

    • 9.21.12
      Daniel said:

      Hm, that’s a tough question and something I haven’t really thought about before! I guess maybe, kind of, sort of? But not much. Max really isn’t a shallow guy, so I don’t think he ever paid much attention to the way I dressed, but sometimes he tells me when he likes what I’m wearing…which is nice and I guess probably encourages me to wear things that I might be unsure about otherwise, if he likes them?

      We have very similar styles and habits when it comes to clothes, though. Max is even MORE of a creature of habit than I am, but we both basically wear variations on the same uniform everyday and neither of us are terribly experimental or trendy. I think my clothing choices have probably changed more in the time we’ve been together than his have, but I don’t think that really has to do with us being together, I think that would have happened with or without him. I don’t know!

  43. 9.21.12
    Jill said:

    Aw, such a cute yupster. You need a baby bjorn.

  44. 9.21.12

    I am in awe of your awesomeness!

  45. 9.21.12
    Mom said:

    TCFW (too cute for words) but I could be prejudiced.

  46. 9.21.12
    Carls said:

    I am the cheaply furnished room! My mind = blown. Where is my therapist? I’d like to talk about body image, please.

  47. 9.21.12

    I’ve always loved the beginning of a new school year simply for the opportunity to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes and being able to reinvent/reinvigorate myself. It’s been years since I’ve stepped into a classroom but yet every September, I still feel compelled to go out and buy some new clothes, and I think I will continue this tradition even when I’m 60!

    With or without your new digs, I’ve always thought you were handsome! When I was your age, I was a fucking mess, so you Sir have very little to clean up concerning your act in my opinion! You bring up an interesting parallel between the physicality of your body with that of a room as a way to guide you in the dressing department and I’m still trying to figure out what the structure of my room looks like and how it’s designed and all I can come up with is the interiors of The Gaiety Theater in old Times Square circa 1977 because that’s exactly how I dress, like a Gay Hustler alla Tom of Finland!

    School’s in session, best of luck, I have no doubt you will be successful!

    Pug hugs from the Biscuits!

  48. 9.21.12
    Erik said:

    Hey Daniel, what kind of glasses are those? Are they Warby Parker? A friend just sat on mine and so I’m on the hunt!

  49. 9.23.12
    Magpie said:

    You’re a real handsome dude, Daniel! :)

  50. 9.26.12
    Kassie said:

    You look super hot. I love the glasses and the sweater on you.

  51. 9.29.12
    jack said:

    my wife thinks you’re hot. kudos.

  52. 10.8.12
    Sally said:

    You look great! And, so I’m not completely superficial in my compliments, you’re a great writer!

  53. 10.21.12
    Kathryn said:

    Firstly, you are so massively adorable, as is the perfect accessory/beloved Mekko.
    Secondly, your glaring goals are glaring at me! I’m in the third year of my BA now and am try to drag myself into the phase where I am actually an excellent student and find the motivation to do work and enjoy it, whilst managing to look like a respectable human being. Great post, thanks. Here’s to doing so, for all!

  54. 12.17.12
    Tracy said:

    Hello from a fellow UES-Boerum Hill transplant! Love your blog. Who makes your pup’s collar and harness? Thanks in advance xx