December 1, 2023 | Rome, Italy


By |2019-04-05T18:56:36+02:00April 5th, 2019|"Scarlet Says"|
“I need to get out of this jacket now!”

he other day, my jacket zipper got stuck on the thin scarf I was wearing. As I tried to unzip it, and detach the material from the zipper, it wouldn’t budge. I had zipped my jacket halfway up and halfway up it would remain. It was cool outside and I didn’t need to take it of… yet.

Later in the day, I was spending time with a new friend and decided to enlist her help. She tried helping me with the zipper, but it was too stubborn for both of us. I asked her if she had a pair of scissors. We cut the scarf—she seemed more upset about that than I was —but the zipper remained stuck.

“I’m sick of this!” I exclaimed, “I need to get out of this jacket now!” I had become uncomfortable and anxious, and I didn’t need to be wearing the jacket anymore, as I was indoors. But no matter how much effort I made, I couldn’t free the zipper to free myself from the jacket.

Finally, it occurred to me to forget about fixing the zipper. I grabbed a friend of a friend this time, and asked both of them to help lift the rather heavy jacket over my head. Feeling a bit embarrassed, I raised my arms like a child, and the jacket came off. Hooray!

I’m not sure whether I’ll ever be able to use that jacket again. It is hanging in my closet and the zipper is still stuck. But maybe it’s time for a new jacket, anyway.

This whole incident got me thinking about the way that we sometimes get stuck in routines, ways of thought, jobs, or even relationships that don’t make sense for us anymore. Maybe there was something good about them in the beginning. But what made sense months or years ago might not make any sense anymore. And yet, even if we recognize this, we might not know how to change. No wonder there are so many diets and self-help manuals out there. People keep trying to get unstuck but sometimes they are afraid to ditch the entire jacket.

I had zipped my jacket halfway up and halfway up it would remain.


Spring seems like the perfect time to flex the make-a-change muscles. There’s a fresh breeze in the air. We can walk around without our scarves and jackets. We can break out our sunglasses and smile, if only because the sky is so blue and the day so bright. Nature knows when it’s time for renewal, even though we don’t always know it ourselves.

This winter we had colder than usual temperatures in Southern California. We had more frequent rainy days than we’d had in a long while. Some days I just wanted to stay inside with the heater on and my cat sitting by my feet, to not speak with anyone and not do much of anything because that felt like the most comfortable thing to do. Stagnation has its attractions– and maybe there’s a time for that. But we must be careful not to let that become our new normal.

I’ve typically been the person to stay in a job for too long, and not just because I needed the money. It was because I didn’t know what else I could do. I didn’t know that I could ditch the jacket and be okay afterwards. I’ve been the person to stay in a relationship for too long, because I really wanted it to work even if signs kept pointing to major dysfunction. But here I am on the other side of both that relationship and that job, and you know what? I’m okay.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. I look back and wonder why it took me years to make the career change that seems so evident now. I wonder why it took me months of suffering, of being committed to something that wasn’t working in the most obvious ways. Was I simply afraid, or just used to things being the way they were? Maybe a little of both.

Change is difficult and sometimes scary, but it’s also a wonderful blessing. How awesome is it to be creatures who evolve and change over time. Let’s make good choices this spring and change into the best versions of ourselves. Small changes might help in later taking bigger ones. Get a haircut, try a new shade of nail polish, go to a different grocery store than the usual one, or call up that friend who you haven’t talked to in months. And why not make a new friend while you’re at it, or ask an acquaintance for help in making that change. After all, if I hadn’t asked my new friends for help, I would never have been able to get out of my jacket!

About the Author:

Scarlet Michaelson wrote the "Scarlet Says" column between 2017 and 2020,