A quick note about this post: This is not meant to be a "Rules of Lolita" post, as some people seem to think. This is, what I thought was quite obviously, tips for when you don't feel comfortable dressing in pink and pastel and the general over-the-top Sweet Lolita that is so common at the moment. In short, this is how to dress more mature than the common Sweet Lolita. Not how to do it right, period. If you do wear OTT Sweet and love it, good for you, this article was not aimed at judging you for it, so ladies, please, don't get your bloomers in a bunch over it.
Some girls will gasp at the idea of a Lolita who's role model isn't a Disney princess or a pink confectionery. To some girls, it's all about acting young. If that's your thing, go for it, but some of us want something a bit more sophisticated. Were not all skipping down toy isles, whistling our favorite Disney song while looking for the perfect shade of pink Barbie tiara that will match our newest teddy bear covered dress. Some of us look places other than the toy isle for our Lolita inspiration. If you want to make your outfits look a bit more mature, here are a few dos and don'ts. It might seem like there are a lot of them, but you really only need to remember a couple of them for a coordinate to start looking a bit more mature.
Wear tights or over-the-knee socks. I know I say this all the time, but I live by this tip, especially since I haven't been 15 in quite some time, but wear over-the-knee socks or even tights. Socks that fall below the knee tend to look very juvenile. Which is fine and dandy if you're one of those rare girls who happens to be in her twenties but looks 14, but for everyone else, it's probably going to make you look goofy. So keep those socks above your knees!
Wear muted colors. If you love the look of pastels, but don't want to look like you fell into a pile of baby clothes and just wore whatever stuck, go for muted pastel colors. Soft dusty rose, gentle slate blues, or even mauve. Darker muted colors such as burgundy or a dark navy are also a good way to add color to a more mature Lolita outfit without feeling like a nursery print wallpaper.
Stick to classical prints, or none at all. Obviously you don't want kittens and teddy bears dancing in their pajamas and eating cakes on the hem of your skirt. I would even avoid things like plaids (unless it's very dark and simple plaids), gingham, and stuff like cherries or strawberries. Instead choose pretty classic florals or even just solid colors.
Wear cream, ivory, or off-white instead of white. White blouses, socks, and shoes are pretty much the stand by matching pieces to a Lolita coordinate, but try something a little less stark, like a cream, ivory, or off-white instead. Paired with a skirt or JSK in a muted color, it will give the outfit a much softer look, and hopefully be less reminiscent of a school girl. Going through the Bibles I couldn't find an example of this, mostly because pictures in the mooks are so highly contrasted it's hard to tell! So instead of just blouses, here are two, rather lace monstery, dresses, one in offwhite, and one in white, even though they are similar dresses, the offwhite one looks much more mature.
Avoid large Peter Pan collars. Huge, lace ruffled Peter Pan collars have a much younger feel than high necked collars, square or sweet heart necklines, or even just smaller Peter Pan collars that aren't covered in yards of lace. I, personally, think that a square or sweetheart neckline is the best option. You can even mimic this neckline with a JSK, go blouseless and wear a bolero or cardigan.
Keep the poof minimal. Don't feel like you need to have a super inflated cupcake silhouette, of course, you need poof, but you don't need hyper amounts of it. Wear a less extreme petticoat and make sure that sleeves on dresses and blouses aren't super poofy. Maybe even try a skirt with a box pleat instead of gathers.
Don't over accessorize. Don't be a victim of accessory overload, while that might be normal for Sweet Lolita, with the more mature or Classic styles too many accessories tends to look silly. Keep it simple with a delicate necklace and maybe even a bracelet or a couple rings.
Carry a "grown-up" purse. Bunny bags, bags shaped like candies, or anything with lots of rhinestones and ruffles should be avoided. Pick something very simple, with just an emblem or a single bow for decoration.
Style your hair simply. Don't feel like super hairsprayed pigtails and perfect ringlets are your only hair options. Style it simply but elegantly, a soft curl, two simple braids, or with your bangs swept off to one side. I, personally, find that side swept bangs look best with more mature looks, as bangs, especially very blunt ones, can look very childish.
Don't wear a huge head piece. If you want a more mature look, your first step, after not wearing pastel pink, is to avoid too many giant bows, ruffles, and other frilly stuff. The easiest giant bow to get rid of is the one you might be tempted to put on your head! Instead of a big bow, or even a ruffly headdress, look for a nice headband with a small ribbon bow off to the side. You could even go *gasp* headdressless! I know it's often taboo, but you can look so much more mature if you just have nicely styled hair. Try looking for one of those headbands that look like braids if you neither want to style your hair too much, or wear a headpiece.
Don't wear very short skirts. Keep the hemline demure! Angelic Pretty has been known for pumping out skirts that are barely 16 inches long. So keep your skirts at just above the knee at the shortest. Even go for a calf length skirt if you want something very sophisticated.
If you must have a cutesy print, buy it in black or cream. I know that I fall for cute prints every now and then, I just can't help it! If you must must must have the new Hyper Bunnies Teach Teddy Bears How To Bake Cupcakes print, buy it in black, or if they release it in it, cream or offwhite. You will have a much easier time making a pale dress look less infantile than a pink or pastel blue dress, and black colorways usually look less over the top than pink colorways.
So, there you go, Caro-chan's dos and don'ts for when you're trying to make your wardrobe a little more age appropriate. Of course, there's no real "age-limit" to Sweet Lolita, even for the sweetest Sweet Lolita, but some people simply don't feel comfortable wearing pastels and adorable bunny covered prints, and hopefully these tips will reassure people that they don't need to hang up their bloomers for good on their 18th birthday.
Thank you- there are so many good tips in this post!ReplyDelete
Really good pointers! I'm an older girl and it's hard to see the mature side of the fashion sometimes ^_^;ReplyDelete
Can't say anything else than: "I agree wholeheartedly." But you knew that already, right? ;DReplyDelete
Great blog! I was starting to wonder if some of my decisions weren't really fitting in to the lolita genre, but this made me feel like I'm almost doing it right.ReplyDelete
oh this is great^^ReplyDelete
I wanted to look for classis lolita tips for college because I would to wear lolita all the tiome but i wanna be taken seriously aswell T_T
Classic Lolita has little-to-no prints usually; some brands (if you lean toward brands) that cater to Classic Lolita well are Innocent World, Victorian Maiden, and Mary Magdalene. A lower quality brand that caters to Classic is Fanplusfriend (if you're working with a budget). And if you happen to be amazing at sewing, look for some mute colors with less amounts of frills and ruffles, and more emphasis on the shape; skirts tend to be A-lined, so trapezoidal patterning makes some pretty A-line shaped skirts.Delete
Thank you thank you thank you!! I'm 30 (although I can "pass" for several years younger), and while I do like some of the younger/sweeter stuff (I wear patterned knee socks even out of lolita, I love pigtails, and I have blunt bangs), it's nice to have a good guide. My first blouse was from bodyline and was stark white with a huge Peter Pan collar, and after wearing it twice I decided it really wasn't flattering for me. So I've just bought a square-necked "antique white" blouse from Anna House, and I know that I'll wear it even out of lolita!ReplyDelete
Conveniently enough, many of the things you listed makes dressing in lolita cheaper, as well. Not having to own so much jewelry makes things cheaper, definitely. So does needing less poof. Doing away with prints means it's easier to sew your own skirts and dresses.
In addition, many of these ideas means your lolita wardrobe will blend in with your non-lolita wardrobe, which is not only again cheaper, but much more practical for an adult who will probably spend more time out of lolita than in it. Tights go with normal clothes just as well as they go with lolita. Solid dresses and skirts can be worn to dressy occasions without getting stared at. Grown-up blouses look fantastic with slacks or even jeans!
And of course it's easy to "sweeten up" an outfit if desired (for a meetup or whatnot): just have a print skirt and matching headbow to mix in. Yay!
One question though: Shoes? Most older/classic outfits have show women wearing heels. I hate heels! Because I'm only a 7.5 in US women's, I can buy girls' simple dress shoes from Payless, but I've wondered if tea-party shoes, possibly minus the bow and maybe in cream or black or brown (do they make those colors? I should check) would work, wouldn't they?
It's a great tip list! Unfortunately I do skip down the toy isle and admire Disney princesses :( I guess you could say it's what drew me to Lolita in the first place. But I DO admire those who do the grown-up style... someday maybe I will grow up too. Unlikely. But maybe XD great article as usual.ReplyDelete
This post illustrates just how diverse lolita can be.ReplyDelete
Everything you said is very true! A more mature wardrobe is sometimes just so much easier to have.ReplyDelete
I kind of forgot about shoes for this post! I would suggest heels, but honestly, if you don't like wearing heels, tea-party shoes could look very nice too. So long as the rest of the outfit isn't bordering on a very childish sweet, cutesy shoes, like tea-party shoes, probably won't push the outfit over the edge.
An antique white square-neck blouse for AH sounds lovely! I haven been drooling over their square-neck blouses for so long!
XD Thank you! Sweet Lolita is what got so many people into Lolita in the first place, and even the best of us can't help an occasional skip through the toy store. I just think that it's unfair that some Lolitas tend to shun any style other than OTT sweet, when you can look just as lovely, and even as sweet and pastel-y, without looking like a little girl.ReplyDelete
I was hoping so! I had gotten a few questions about people wanting to wear Lolita but not caring for pastel pinks. It's a shame that some people are afraid to get into Lolita because Angelic Pretty OTT Sweet Style sometimes overtakes the whole fashion.ReplyDelete
Thank you! I hope I have helped you a bit, and good luck with college!ReplyDelete
Thanks :D I think that you are doing very well! You have a nice Gothic/Classic style developing that seems to suit you very well.ReplyDelete
XD I figured you would!ReplyDelete
Thank you! I am too, and as much as I do enjoy some OTT Sweet every now and then, I mostly just want to dress a bit more elegant and less like I'm playing dress up.ReplyDelete
Thank you :D!ReplyDelete
"Hyper Bunnies Teach Teddy Bears How To Bake Cupcakes print" ....No. Just delete this now, because if Maki and Asuka find it, it's oging to be a reality. *shudder*ReplyDelete
I kinda wish you'd labeled the post "how to dress more classically" instead of how to "dress your age"... because it kinda makes it sound like rules you have to follow once you reach a certain age.ReplyDelete
But then, I'm one of those older lolita who isn't planning on giving up her fluffy pink deer purse anytime soon.
Ah maybe that would have been a better title? Or even "How to dress maturely?" This post was mostly in response to some questions I got from 20+ yr olds just getting into the fashion for the first time and assuming all there is to Lolita is OTT Sweet. I really don't want to call the post how to dress "Classically" because the tips could be applied to any of the styles, even Sweet styles.ReplyDelete
I agree with this.ReplyDelete
can it be summarized into a single sentence, "when you're older, go classical, not sweet"?ReplyDelete
Well, you don't have to do that. I think it's about if you want to be classic, and look more mature; but you can be sweet at any age, just like all styles of lolita.Delete
i love this post! I think that a lot of people are afraid to do it for the reasons you've said such as the angelic pretty thing and how sometimes people think that there are the rules to follow. this is definitely a breath of fresh air. i love dressing in this style, and although i sometimes step into the candy and lollipop prints, i like to keep a classic look (and i'm sort of lucky I don't know lolitas that tell people off for straying away :P)ReplyDelete
this is a great guide and i hope people learn that they are able to experiment and find what's right for them!
and i just stumbled onto your blog and i love it!
For the blouses I think you can also add wearing blouses with stand up collars such as this: http://www.fanplusfriend.com/servlet/the-243/Gothic-Lolita-cln--Short-Sleeves/Detail. It really does look more mature.ReplyDelete
You mentioned in this article about how "you can still dress lolita past your 18th birthday."ReplyDelete
I'm 17, and I was slightly distraught, as now that I'm going to college soon, and able to dress how I please, I was just going to start getting more into lolita-style clothes. Are you saying the cutoff to where sweet lolita starts looking ridiculous is around 18? Because whenever I see girls in sweet lolita outfits in pictures or on the streets, they seem to be in their upper teens or early twenties. Plus, how would 13-14 year olds afford the clothing? I think this article might've been meant for people who were 25-35, but it would suck if I outgrew lolita as soon as I got into it -_-"
No not at all! I thought I was making a point to say that yes you can still wear super Sweet Lolita even if you're older XD I guess I wasn't as good at saying that as I thought I was? Of course there is no real age limit to when something looks silly on you. This article was mostly aimed at older people (much older than 18 btw, like you said, mid 20s and up) who are trying to get into Lolita, enjoy the idea of Sweet Lolita but don't particularly care for the childish aspects of it. This post is about how to wear sweeter Lolita while looking mature, not about how to dress upon your 18th birthday. 18 is definitely not too old!ReplyDelete
this is definitely the lolita commentary I most agree with, as a twenty year old(who can pass for 16 easily enough, but no younger than that) i love the looks that you posted as mature, they not only work for those who want to appear more age appropriate but also any lolita who wants their look to be taken more seriously as a declaration of innocence and not the message we just came back from an anime convention.ReplyDelete
This is awesome. I'm 24 (though people mistaken me for being younger) and while I love sweet lolita, I'll be teaching college classes this Fall. So, sweet lolita is definitely out. A lot of the options you've presented here are really elegant and I think would work well at my workplace. (I'm an English teacher, so we're allowed to be a little eccentric ^_~)ReplyDelete
Hey thank you so much for this i thought that there was a age limit.ReplyDelete
Thankfully i am a 21 year old who can pass for a 16 year old hehe. (;
I thought i was to old to be a lolita! I love the sweet lolita look and looking doll like!
I gotta get theres dolly contacts ah! -_-
Wow, this guide is very useful. At my age (21 <_<;;) I've started to feel a bit uncomfortable wearing too much pink and have tried to tone it down (Huge BtSSB print fanatic, so finding it quite hard too :P). It's a shame that I can't ever fit a VM or MM dress. u.u I've switched over to muted colours, for example I bought the BtSSB Alice's Portrait JSK in beige colourway. *.*ReplyDelete
Thanks for putting this post up. This allays a lot of doubt I've had, and makes me want to really step into Lolita. The only problem is...
I'm turning 27 in a few days. does this make me too old for Lolita?
Very cool article ! Like the photographies !ReplyDelete
Thanks, I'm trying to use this as a bit of a guideline. I'm trying to convince my mom that it's not all, "Little Bo Peep Meets Elvira." She thinks that I can just "Buy elements" of it if I want it that bad. To her, that means going to k-mart and buying an ugly, cheap, generic-looking skirt. Bleah. I don't like OTT sweet, but I hate boring even more! Right now, I'm wearing a sort of punk-goth thing, but I want to have a few loli outfits to make myself feels special every once in a while. ^^" My mom tends to wear long cotton skirts and monotone t-shirts, and I love her to death, but we have different views on what's cute.ReplyDelete
THIS was a great article. I hated your Ita one, but this one was great. As a guy whos been researching japanese fashion forever, the only "true" mistake I think one makes is wearing SUCH a Japanese style and not being Japanese. They simply look like nerds otherwise, unless their insainly pretty. Theirs this other blog of this girl whos into "gal" fashion. Its so simular to this one. Its really sad. Shes chunky and not pretty and wants SO bad to be a "gal" but probably never will be unless she drops 50 and gets some face work done. :(ReplyDelete
Im curious what you look like now. Anyway, this article can help the not so cute girl not look so dumb but still have that "lolita" look.
I'm all for raising awareness of Lolita fashion and Brolita and whatever, but why is a guy-- who clearly knows nothing about Lolita or Gal style and has like no interest at all in it, even posting here? As a Japanese gal-turned-lolita, I can say: American and European Lolitas are some of my favorite trend setters! When I lived at home, I found that Japanese Lolitas were very snobby and would create lots of hate amongst Dekora, Gal, and Otome communities. I very much prefer the American/European communities and the fresh style they bring to it-- besides, Americans and Europeans were rocking the Victorian/Rococo styles long before us hahaha ^^Delete
I think 30 is WAYYYY too old to even consider dressing like this. HOWEVER, their are PLENTY of super cute things you can do that are still "cute" and envoke this feeling of sweet and antique but arent so costumey. Ruffled cardigans, floral prints, mary janes, colored tights, pearls. All of these are cute and when worn right, will still make you look cute, sweet and age appropriate!ReplyDelete
Thank goodness you don't set the rules, because there ARE some 30/30+ year old Lolitas, some who don't look their age (because apparently 30 is "old" I'm the West now too.Delete
I think these suggestions are spot-on. If someone is obviously more mature, then things like Ama, etc. looks a tad out of place, unless the person can truly pull it off.
I'm just a year younger than you and I've been dressing in lolita for more than 4 years. At first, I was afraid to be too young for lolita too, but I thought 'if I don't do it now I'll never have a chance once I step fully into the world of career.'. So I started with classic lolita since it looks more mature and suitable for my age and personality. Time has passed and now I even wear sweet when I feel like it. As much as I want to say it out loud that age doesn't matter but there's still some points you have to take it in mind; don't go over the top when wearing sweet. OTT is nice on the model but it doesn't always work in RL. Next is being confident and enjoy the fashion!ReplyDelete
Good luck and enjoy your beautiful lace and frills!
I sound so obnoxious. O___O I hope I'm not as rude as I sound there.ReplyDelete
I too hate heels. I can't even stand in them! Try a nice pair of Mary Janes(buckled). Nearly all my lolita shoes are Marys.ReplyDelete
Even if you look 16?ReplyDelete
Thanks for this! I am an older lolita, and although I still love the style, I haven't really felt comfortable wearing it at my age. I have been looking at some more mature styles, (I really like Victorian Maiden and Mary Magdalene ). I really appreciate this post, it helps a lot. I still love all the frills and bows, but I just feel silly in pink cupcakes!ReplyDelete
Wow, that was incredibly sexist, racist, and body-shaming. Please just stop.ReplyDelete
I have wanted to do Lolita since I first found out about it a couple of years ago, but felt too "old" to wear the style's I was always seeing. (Angel, Princes, Innocent Lilita fashions I see are the most popular, along with Goth which is too dark for me and a little extreme) But seeing now that "Mature Lolita" is growing in popularity, I can say, Thank Glob! These tips are FANTASTIC! I am going to be making my own clothes for Lolita (let's face it, even in Yen, it's exorbitant!!)Now all I need to do is find some great sites with Lolita friendly fabric and get on it! Thank's so much, you totally ROCK Lolita Goddess!!ReplyDelete
Hi Caro-chan. I'm 28 years old. I want to wear any of these Lolita dresses. I'm so glad that you suggest us how to dress maturely if any woman still wants to wear these dresses. I have some questions for you. Did you look up in Bodyline? If you did, will I be mature enough to wear these dresses from Bodyline? Once again thank you. I'm looking forward to this.ReplyDelete
Unfortunately for petite women, skirts and dresses longer than the thigh make our legs look strange and with the lolita style dresses we end up looking like we are twice as short and twice as wide!!ReplyDelete
Thanks for this post, it was really helpful! I actually AM one of those girls in her 20's who can pass for 14, but I'm not proud of it. XD I'm just getting back into lolita and am trying to build a wardrobe that is cute, but still looks like something an adult would wear.ReplyDelete
Great post, and I agree, there's no age limit on any niche fashion. Haters will hate, but as for those who appreciate different styles, aren't we always delighted by our well-niche-dressed elders? Just take a look at adult women's fashion through the periods of Rococo, Victorian, 20's, 50's. Today we have what? ...No seriously, what? (People from these time periods would be appalled with what most people wear today, but that doesn't stop, say, a 55 year old retired rock star from going around in jeans and a beat up Metallica shirt -- no one complains about this.) So I say, absolutely stick with Lolita styles if that is what you like yourself in. Recognize what works for you as you mature in style and age, and go out there and inspire those who are new to it all! It's absurd for young women (27 is young, stop complaining, lol) to start worrying about whether it's inappropriate to be themselves anymore, whether it's time to submit to wearing a mask of fitting in.ReplyDelete
Totally! I'm 27 and will use this as a guide, but just because the more mature style fits my personality and personal tastes. My attraction to lolita comes from a love of historical fashions more than princesses and cute things.Delete
BUT! There is an incredible OTT sweet lolita in my community who is just amazing and is the same age as me. I'd punch anybody who criticized her for being too old for it.
Hi! I am 32 years old and I love sweet Lolita! I look very young for my age so I am gonna go sweet! I love all kinds of sweet and cute stuff and always have! :)ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for this! I know it's been a while since you wrote it, but I can't tell you how much it means to me. I'm glad to hear from someone who I consider a 'lolita rolemodel' that toning down Sweet isn't ugly or boring. I feel like I get judged because, while I still want to be Sweet, I don't want to look like a little girl (no offense to anyone who does.) I do a lot of the things you suggested, but people always say I'm under-accessorized, I need more petti, etc. :(ReplyDelete
I agree with most things you have said apart from poof! I am 27 and if I am gonna stand out because of dressing lolita I am sure as hell gonna wear the poofiest petti going and feel like a princess doing it. Go big or go home! I don't think lolita has an upper age limit, it's about how you feel and I feel and look a lot younger than I am. I love my little pony and hello kitty and I have no shame in getting excited about a new release in public. I have a daughter and she thinks I am awesome. I am not about to go out every day in lolita but when I am gonna do it, I am gonna do it well.ReplyDelete
It feels as though this post is meant to serve as more of a transitional coordinate-- like someone working their way from OTT Sweet or Sweet, towards Country or Classical, or even Gothic. Plenty of people pull off the OTT Sweet and I have not met anyone in their early 20's ~ late 30's who can't pull off a sweet look, but it could just be a bias. I understand the basis is to create a more sophisticated/mature look (I tend to wear classical and country quite often, but people say my petite figure suits sweet a lot more), but it really fills as though it's a closet-transitioning article.ReplyDelete
Okay...a late comment from a non-lolita.ReplyDelete
Reading the comments I feel like some people cannot read ¬¬
Since I also dress differently but do work for the government I know how much it would mean to me, if someone takes time and write an article about how to wear my lovely clothes a bit more mature.
I think many girls/boys can work with it!
First of all these are some pretty awesome tips. I could read your blog all day :DReplyDelete
I look and feel silly in a full lolita outfit (blouse, petticoat etc.) But I like the design of lolita dresses and would like to wear them very toned down, without a petticoat for example . I know that "unlolifies" them, but it would suit me best. Do you have any tips on what type of dress (brand, style) to choose?
I always thought that the entire point of lolita was to subvert expectations of age and gender, so of course I disregard any "wear this, not that" type advice. But I think everything you've said is super useful if a person is going for a more mature, muted lolita look. This is even advice that could be followed for a specific outfit or occasion. Excellent observations on how to style a mature lolita look.ReplyDelete
I'm 37 and I just decided I want to get into lolita more seriously (finally got rid of killjoys, finally got more money). For a while I felt depressed as most of the lolis are so much younger so I thought it was too late for me but I love the frills so much! TT I simply want to wear them more. I never cared about mainstream fashion which is so boring for me but this is something else. I always loved pieces that had some frills or ruffles on them (still felt a bit self-conscious in them, even younger). This toned down classic will be a good way for me to start! ^^ I really like other styles too, like hime or gothic, I would like to try them out one day. Looking like a princess is a dream! ^^ I always wished that Victorian-like fashion becomes more prominent and I'm so happy it is getting popular everywhere. It's so beautiful.ReplyDelete
These are good tips, but what if you're not just older, but really OLD? I love the lolita fashions, but at my age--SEVENTY!--what to do?ReplyDelete
You should do what makes your heart happy!Delete
When I started questioning my fashion & trying to reconcile the things I love as my body & mentality started to change, I realized I could take all the things that were starting to make me feel outgrown of them, the cuteness I loved in fashion & put it into other items besides clothing (jewelry, decor around the house, pictures). I made an idea board to find what is the evolution of my personal fashion, where to go in this stage of life (I am 32 as of this week). I started to imagine how I will change over time & what would I want to look like.
How is one supposed to know what this all means when bombarded with images of youth constantly & no images of the elegant aging mature & graceful woman? While we are often told by society “it’s wrong to dress demure past x age” & then told online “dress however you want” it’s confusing to try & find that medium where you feel comfortable going out or being at home.
I used to be gothic & am no stranger to being stared at, but feeling quite mature at this point in life, I do want to project an image that elevates me, not creates discomfort in public for myself, while still expressing who I am & what I love. I am now able to understand myself much better than as a teen or twenty something year old, & I wanted to reflect that. I looked to models such as Carmen Dell’Orifice, China Machado, & Baddie Winkle. They show how you can be classical & beautiful your entire life, & while Baddie Winkle is in the extreme of edgy clothing, she proudly shows that is an option, too!
It’s also great to explore fabrics, while worrying less about looks. I found much love in hemp, silk, & bamboo, & sewing at home. Alternative experimental fashion is so weird anyone can wear it.
The point is to have fun, but if you’re looking for balance, try to organize what you love & make that medium for yourself. It will be a journey of self-discovery.