What made you go into fragrance?
This is a question I’ve been hearing time and time again since I made the unlikely decision to move into a world that’s completely unknown to me.
See, I’m your typical geek. When I was six, I wanted to be an author. I’ve had the opportunity to write two books to date, so mission accomplished. But my initial career trajectory brought me into things that involved computers.
I studied computer science in college, but found that I enjoyed systems administration. In layman’s terms, my job had me usually typing on a command prompt (those boring black and white screens) to keep computer systems functional.
For years, I managed computers. While not working as a sysadmin before my current role, I was always in front of a computer.
But then something happened. I got depressed.
People describe depression as many different things.
You don’t want to get out of bed. You withdraw from the world. You might latch onto something that is unhealthy.
All of this described me, but more importantly, I didn’t want to sit on the computer all day.
I had this cool computer station setup at home; I built the computer myself. I took pride in my workstation, complete with desk that had pictures of my family, knickknacks that I collected through the years, special things that meant the world to me.
I ended up moving into my bedroom, and slowly, moving my office to my bedroom. I got a laptop I worked on instead.
But even with the laptop, I didn’t want to be doing much work. Depression robs you of much of everything.
My depression had its external triggers, and without going through the specifics, I went through disappointment and loss. But eventually I saw some silver lining through it all.
First, I recognized how much time I spent in front of a computer. The fact that I used to work from 7:20am until after midnight doing very little else was an unhealthy life for me.
Second, I recognized that there are more things to appreciate in life. As I listen to one of my favorite Spotify artists, “Fearless Motivation” (which I highly recommend), people often have so much to be thankful for but they focus on about five things that bother them.
Tell that to a depressed person and they won’t really do much to change, though. Everyone has their turning point.
My turning point began on a regular summer day. It was late in the season, and it was hot. I was dressed to tackle that Sunday like any other, doing something with my family, trying to get out of bed to be there for my children despite feeling this cloudiness overhead.
Trudging along, usually.
That day, I decided to look into a cabinet. I found a small 2 ml sample of perfume in the back that I had worn a few times before.
I’d put it on in the past in passing, to smell nice for other people. Never had I previously thought about internalizing scent for myself.
That day, though, without any thought, that’s exactly what I did.
In the past, I’d put it on, smell my wrists, and move on, forgetting that the scent lingered throughout the day.
That Sunday, I put it on, took a deep whiff of the scent, and let it envelop me.
It had a transformative effect. There’s no other way to describe it.
I felt different. Alive.
After living in the shadows of darkness for as long as I did, I perked up. I can’t call my rehabilitation immediate. It certainly wasn’t. But I can call it a turning point for me while reeling in a sea of despair for too long of a time.
Never had I previously thought about internalizing scent for myself.
I got excited about scent after that. It awoke something inside of me.
About a week later, I was at my parents’ house for the first time in six years (we live 1100 miles away from each other) and I decided that I wanted to wear perfume. My mother has a few bottles; I put on the one in front and I loved it.
When I was back home, I decided to try to find Mom’s perfume at Sephora, not even knowing if they had it. Not remembering the look of the bottle or the name of the scent, I ended up trying lots of different bottles, experiencing different scents each time.
It was exhilarating.
And I was definitely feeling better. Better enough, after all, that I brought myself out of my comfort zone after far too long to try to experience the world through scent. We often don’t pay attention to our surroundings through anything but our sight, tastes, touch, and hearing.
Our scent often is left behind, despite the ridiculous amount of memories we associate with smell.
I went on a shopping spree after that, trying to find different bottles of things, buying lots of samples for a varied experience.
Each bottle brought me joy. Each one made me happy.
(Admittedly, there were a few scents that had notes that I didn’t love, but it was still a super exciting time for discovery.)
Seeing how my demeanor would improve through this journey through scent made me realize what an important gift I could give: the ability to empower others to experience their true selves through smell.
And so, I decided that fragrance — the stuff we wear — was in my future.
I‘m not your typical beauty/cosmetics/fragrance person, and that’s fine by me. I wear the same black yoga pajama pants almost everyday. I wear t-shirts. Baseball caps. I don’t wear makeup. My watch of choice is a massive Garmin smartwatch. My jewelry of choice is my wedding and engagement bands as well as a single ring on my other hand.
Yet this is my story, and I believe a lot of us can relate. I know that’s not the case for everyone, though. Some of you have been there all along.
But not me. I’m just getting started.
I hope that I can give people who identify more with my appearance a new outlook on life that they experience through their noses.
My colleague Andrea tells me that my story is depressing, almost. But it is my story.
And it ends well, so I don’t consider it depressing at all. I believe I was thrust into a series of unfortunate circumstances for awhile so that I could be here at this very moment.
I mean, I met Dre in the most interesting of ways: she was one of the people I bought fragrance from on eBay!
Still, I recognize that everyone sees the world in the eyes they have, and that everyone’s story is different.
I recognize that some people love scent, that they’ve had the desire to try on perfumes and colognes since they were children.
I recognize that there are others who aren’t particularly surrounded by the cosmetics, beauty, or fashion industry but who have discovered scent through their careers, or through a random experience much like my own.
Just the other day, I was out hiking with a woman in the remote woods in New Jersey, and I told her I was entering the world of fragrance. She seemed flabbergasted — and she didn’t even know me. She said, “well, what did you do before?” to which I told her I was in IT.
“That I can see,” she said smugly.
But my experience is why I’m here, and I can’t dismiss that.
I believe everyone is beautiful inside and out.
I also believe very strongly that scent can contribute to your sense of self. Your self-acceptance. Your happiness. Your feeling of belonging.
I believe that just a little bit of scent can go a long way in making oneself feel loved and appreciated from within (and of course, from beyond).
I don’t believe there is a single person who embodies the definition of beauty. In other words, I think we all do; we are all beautiful. I don’t believe that you have to get all dolled up (and I certainly don’t) to be your textbook definition of fashionista.
If my story has told me one thing, it’s that we all find ways to feel beautiful.
For me, just thinking about how my fifth sense has existed but has been relatively dormant for almost four decades has gotten me thinking about the opportunity that abounds by giving other people the same knowledge and power to forge their own paths forward into a life of happiness and fulfillment.
I sincerely hope that you’ll widen your eyes, take a huge whiff, and open all five of your senses into this journey of self-love — with me.