Today was hard.

I woke up yesterday with a rush of excitement to get through my todos. First on the list after breakfast, a drive to the nearest mall (over an hour away) to purchase items for a new fall wardrobe.

In the past couple years I’ve been very conscious of what articles of clothes I actually wear and I have been ruthless about culling anything that doesn’t make it into regular rotation. My closet has shrunk considerably–which is not a bad thing, except that now with a new job in a professional office, I’m lacking enough attire that I can feel comfortable wearing to work. So, this morning, I had a clear game plan: I knew which pieces I needed to and I knew exactly which stores to hit. I wanted to be in and out without delay.

Well…

All was going as planned when I nearly had a meltdown right there between Annie’s Pretzels and Pac Sun. After parading around H&M and Forever 21, Aldo and DSW,  every shirt I touched reminded of Bangladesh. I couldn’t help but feel trapped under the fluorescent mall lights and the painfully photoshopped images that urged me to imagine myself as someone else.  What a world, I thought bitterly as I juggled my bags filled with new clothes and shoes.  Whose hands had sewn the seams on that cream sweater? What child toiled to affix the soles of those shoes? My heart broke into a million pieces and I wanted to cry for what I had bought. What I had done. I picked up my pace and left.

Back in my car, I had an impulse to return everything. Just take it all back and…  And what then? Sure, I could make my own clothes–but I don’t have that skill. I don’t even own a sewing machine! I can’t fully escape this highly industrialized complex yet, but it was clear to me as I drove out of town that if I want live a fulfilled life–if I want to live by my values, shopping at certain stores just can’t be a part of that future.

On the way home I talked to a friend who shared my concern and expressed that she’s felt similarly. We proposed how things could change and what we could do. For now, we can purchase clothes second hand. I recently found Twice and am looking forward to taking advantage of it’s services. And what if stores were rated like restaurants? “B” rating for a store that engages in safe manufacturing and fair labor practices. “A” rating if they do that and source materials sustainably. Such an easy way to see what your dollars would truly be supporting!

I didn’t return the items. And I’m not promising perfect buying practices from here on out. But I am committed to making choices that better fit with my own moral standards. As my friend and I agreed, we can’t continue to speak openly about our food choices such as prioritizing organic food and sustainable farms without considering the implications of our other purchases. Please don’t take this to mean I expect us all to be living by the light of homemade candles in a communal yurt anytime soon. Only that for me, the impact of my choices were emotionally wrought and demonstrated a deep personal yearning to live in greater harmony within my global community and on this planet.

May your choices bring you peace.

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