The Trappings of “Cool” — Fearfully & Wonderfully Jo

(Photo: Unsplash)

All my life, I had never felt “cool.”

As a minority, I was pretty much conditioned as early as preschool to believe I was not and could never be. My status was only reinforced by kids who “othered” me and expressed their disgust to my face because I was Asian (sad but true story). So I never allowed myself the luxury of thinking I could even match up to their level, much less, be “cool.”

It wasn’t until halfway through college that I suddenly began hearing my name and “cool” being used in the same sentence. Imagine my surprise – me??? cool??? how??? It began happening around the same time I began to seriously pursue my #passionforfashion, so naturally, I credited that for this strange but wonderful-feeling occurrence.

Recently, something cool that I had wanted to do didn’t pan out the way I envisioned, and I found myself feeling pretty upset. Adding to that, the fact that changes have been occurring at my job within the past month – changes that are not necessarily bad, but have lightly rocked my perception of the image I’ve built up around “super-snazzy-publicist-Jo.” It was around the same time when a friend sent me an encouragement reminding me that I’m a blessing to others not because of what I do, but because of who I am.

After diving headfirst into fashion, I was elated by my newfound status of being “cool” and ‘“chic,” but I found that instead of boosting my confidence, each compliment I accrued only gave reason to find more things I could do to maintain my cool factor. I desperately grasped onto this elusive thing I had never been able to achieve, afraid it might disappear at any second. Once I got a job in PR and subsequently moved to the glittering mecca that is Manhattan, that desire became heightened and my efforts to sustain it became even more frantic – I had fully become addicted to being “cool” and didn’t even realize it.

Comparison is easy, but in a city like NYC and in an industry like fashion, where we all falsely perceive each other to be cooler than ourselves, it’s second nature. We’re all subconsciously keeping score, whether we admit it or not, always looking for things we can do, people we can network with, that will increase our ranking and draw more “wow you’re so chic!” responses. But in doing so, we completely miss out on what actually makes us beautifully fabulous, and that lies in who we are. Who Jolene is.

When the super-cool-thing-that-was-supposed-to-happen didn’t happen, I was sad because I wouldn’t have this to add to my “cool-folio” after all. But I failed to realize that I’m still the same Jo – nothing about my person will change as a result of this. My friends will still be my friends, people won’t think I’m a loser just because I didn’t do this one thing, I’m still a fantastic, hard-working publicist – like geeeeeez chillax Jo!!

In church, it often gets brought up that we are human beings, not human doings. God loves us simply because of who we are, and true, genuine love from humans should reflect the same. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be cool, but it’s extremely detrimental when your whole agenda and sense of self is oriented around an insatiable thirst for more cool-ness. It’s also selfish if you think about it – sure, all these things I’m doing might make me look cool, but it’s taking time away from who I could be for those I love and care about.

If you find yourself feeling “uncool” and desperately grasping for anything that will change that, know you’re not alone. I’m right there with ya. After all, we’re only human. But I hope you take comfort in knowing that your presence is enough. YOU are enough. I can guarantee you that if your loved ones were asked to list their favorite things about you, the first things they’d say would all pertain to your personality, and not all the cool things you’ve done in this life.

So now, I bid you adieu with my favorite definition of “cool”:

COOL: intensely good

You are intensely good – embrace it, you cool cat, you! 😎

xoxo, jo

p.s. TYSM to anyone who has been so generous with your words of affirmation – being called “cool” and “chic” was something I never imagined I would hear growing up, so I am extremely honored and flattered 🥺🥺🥺

Words and thoughts courtesy of Jolene Chao,

Related Blogs