Patchwork Pants

It was the last week in August, 1977 and I was just about to start 5th grade.   I was both scared and excited. Middle School!  I would have different subjects and different teachers. I would get my first locker!  As I sat on the dock at my Grandmother’s cabin in Maine, thoughts of the upcoming school year swirled in my head. I pictured standing outside class, chatting with my friends, laughing, and excitedly talking about our weekend plans. After all, we weren’t babies anymore.  Suddenly I heard my Grandmother call out to me.  “Carol, I have something for you.”  When your Grandmother announces a gift, you make tracks.

They had a patchwork design of all different colors—blue, red, orange, pink…  Grandma had bought a navy blue top to go with the pants.

I ran up the cabin stairs.  Grandma was standing on the screened-in porch.  There was a white bag on the table.  “I picked up an outfit for you for school.”  I opened the bag and saw the prettiest pair of pants I had ever seen.  They had a patchwork design of all different colors—blue, red, orange, pink…  Grandma had bought a navy blue top to go with the pants.  I thanked her, gave her a quick hug, and ran into my room to try them on.  I loved them.  I wore them to the family campfire that night, careful not to spill s’mores on them.  I had already decided that I would wear them during the first week of school.  I felt certain that nobody else would have pants THIS cool.

When I think back to that first week of school, I don’t remember much.  But I do remember very vividly what happened the day I wore my beloved patchwork pants.  We had gym that day and because it was September, the weather was still nice and we played outside.  The 5th and 6th graders didn’t have to change for gym and I was a little nervous about getting my pants dirty.  I don’t remember what we played. Kickball maybe?  Soon the teacher told us to line up to go back inside.  We all dutifully lined up and started walking towards the school.  As we walked, we had to pass another group of kids having their gym class. They were 7th graders and they were playing softball.  Somehow, we all instinctively knew not to make eye contact for fear of being teased. We passed, heads down.

Just when I thought the coast was clear, one of the 7th-grade girls yelled at me as I passed by, “Nice pants!!”   A few of her friends started to laugh.  A few of my classmates turned to look at me.  Nobody said anything. My cheeks literally burned and I held back tears.  When I got home, I took off those pants, threw them in a bag, and stuffed them deep into the trash, so that no one would notice.  My beautiful pants, which mere hours ago had made me so happy, because they were pretty and colorful and DIFFERENT, were now something I was so ashamed of that I never wanted to see them again.  I felt a mix of shame for not standing up for myself and embarrassment for not knowing that I should be wearing Levi’s instead of patchwork pants.

I have thought of that day and those pants many times over the years.

It was the first time I betrayed myself and it had a lasting effect on me.  It took time and experience to gain the confidence and wisdom not to care what people thought of me.

It took time to trust that, if I loved something, it didn’t matter if no one else did.  Feeling comfortable in your skin is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.  Invest in yourself.  Whether it’s through classes, coaching, monthly massages, working out—whatever makes you feel confident, radiant, and alive—do it.  Don’t let the naysayers get you down or cause you to question yourself.  Don your version of patchwork pants and live.


Carol Campos
Carol Campos
Like many, I struggled for years wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I had been working in the corporate world for over 20 years, most recently in a leadership role with a Fortune 5 company. Although I was consistently recognized and promoted throughout my career, I somehow knew that I was meant to do something different. I felt stuck in a life that didn’t fit, yet I had created it. What was my purpose? I had no idea. Finally, I left my corporate job and made the leap into the unknown. After doing months of self-discovery work (actually, play!), reconnecting to my higher wisdom, and re-remembering who I was at my core, I realized I didn’t have to fix myself. I also realized that I didn’t have to worry about “finding my purpose.” What I found was that I’m multi-passionate and didn’t want to be boxed into one thing. I didn’t HAVE to be boxed into one thing. I started a podcast and a blog where I explored the human experience—including my own beautiful, messy, but perfect road. This blog later became my column on BizCatalyst 360°. I became a mentor and a wayshower for others. I became a consultant to help improve company culture and improve client relationships. These are things I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. But as often is the case, the Universe had an even bigger plan for me than I had for myself. My Soul knew what I would be doing long before I did, and I’m grateful that I followed the Divine map that was laid out before me! I love traveling, exploring new cultures, being in nature, and helping people on their own paths. I hold a B.A. in Communications from Hofstra University. I live in Massachusetts with my rambunctious and hilarious cats, Petey, and Emmett.

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  1. I somehow missed this the first time, Carol, and I was so happy to see it in “the weekend edition.”

    Gosh, you sent me down memory lane: My friend sewed a pair of bell bottom jeans in corduroy that could have been designed on some “trip” – main color orange with burgundy squiggles and what not. Together with an Afghan fur that would have made anybody attending Woodstock proud. Unless the weather has been just slightly moist, then the whole classroom would know it was made of goat and smelled accordingly. But we all looked like that in the 70’s, even if most of us smelled slightly less goaty.

    Around that time I got a visit from my cousin from America who taught me patchwork. So I made a bedspread of 3″ across hexagons made from my uncle’s old ties, what had been cut off my grandmother’s dress to make it a bit shorter, bits and pieces – including some orange/burgundy pieces of corduroy. I think of my friend whenever I visit my mother who still has the spread in her guestroom. With no traveling this year due to the pandemic, I haven’t visited the guestroom. But now I got to go – at least in my mind. Thank you.

    • Wow! I love these stories, Charlotte! This line had me cracking up: “Unless the weather has been just slightly moist, then the whole classroom would know it was made of goat and smelled accordingly.” I can totally picture the hexagon bedspread! Little bits of memories that live on. I have a quilt made by my great, great grandmother. I cherish it!

  2. Carol – Love your lesson story here. My mom taught me many things: how to do my laundry; how to iron a shirt (Seriously!); how to cook basic dishes; how to make a bed so that it actually looks made. But one of the best things she ever taught me was an expression: “If you don’t have something nice to say to someone, don’t say anything at all.” I’ve honestly tried to remember that to avoid having people metaphorically throw their patchwork pants in the trash. It’s not always easy, but l usually fall back on thinking “Would I like to receive that message if it came from someone else?”

    Thanks for reinforcing that lesson.

  3. Hi, Carol! I left a short comment on LinkedIn but I would like to say a few more words about your beautiful post and “patchwork pants” in our lives.

    Naturally, we all found ourselves doubting our decisions. It isn’t only a part of the growing up process. No matter how I feel comfortable in my skin, I still care what people close to me, who love me and whom I love, think of me. It’s not about questioning myself or my decisions. If I am confident in what I’m doing (or wearing :)) I’ll stick to it, but I just can’t say that I do not care what they have to say. My husband is my best fashion critic, and I love his funny comments on my wardrobe. I wear what I like but sometimes accept his opinion.

    As you say, if I love something, it didn’t matter if no one else does, but I would like to know their opinion. Valuing those opinions and using my wisdom helps me in my decision-making process.

    I hope my comment does not sound too philosophically. 🙂 Your patchwork pants metaphor applies to many things in our lives.

    • I love this, Lada. Thank you so much for sharing. You make a great point–you can listen to the opinions but use your own wisdom to make the ultimate decision. Thanks again!

  4. Thank you Carol. As someone who grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” your story resonated with me. Being mocked and bullied as a child takes its toll on trust, confidence and finding self love. With support and experience over time we find our voice and our story inspires so many others.

  5. Carol Campos, you really do describe experience that come to life for the reader. Kids can be very cruel and it’s not always easy sticking up for yourself under those circumstances. Being ‘comfortable in your own skin’ is an ideal that tends to come a little later in life. I am sure we all go through this feeling. It is not only about confidence, but projecting the comfort you have so other folks won’t tend to even start taking the mickey out of you. It is also about posture. You mention kids tend to avoid eye contact, because it can spark off a reaction; with kids, more than likely negative.

    I remember when about 19 or 20, attending a wedding of a couple at a registry office. I had donned a smart ‘pin-striped’ and appropriate shirt and tie. One person; just one guy, asked if I was attending a funeral. I immediately dashed home to change into a plain blue suit. As it happens, he was not not very well turned out. On reflection, my pin-striped suite with a nice shirt and bright tie was just the ticket for a wedding!

    I should have taken no notice. The pin-stripe was quite new, good quality and I liked it! So there we are; I should have been more comfortable in my own skin. More confident.

    Carol as you rightly state, Ignore the naysayers! They are the ones with the problems.

    Thank you for sharing this essay. Enlightening and thought provoking.