You can run as far and as fast away as you want in the search of ‘freedom’ but there is one universal and unending truth: you can never run away from yourself.
The last few weeks I’ve had this unnerving feeling of just needing to escape my life. To escape my job, escape this city, escape Australia.
To be overseas and free.
Free of responsibility. Free of commitments and, most of all, free of expectations.
I’m feeling the ever creeping, always present big three-zero looming. And even though experience has taught me that getting older isn’t really all that bad, I feel tremendous pressure to be ‘successful’ by the time that birthday rolls around. Or at least to know what freaking direction I want my life to go in.
The only consistency I’ve had across my life is that there is no consistency.
So with this is mind I have cultivated some short, mid, longer and long term goals to help me stay focused on what I want to achieve and to help me take those smaller steps to get there.
Short term (0-6 months):
1. Pay off my credit card
2. Write 1 opinion piece per month with the aim to be published
3. Write something (no matter how shit) every day
4. Go somewhere overseas in Feb for around a month – aim for the US
5. Move back to Melbourne
Mid term (6 – 12 months):
1. Secure an internship at a publishing company
2. Finish one full time year of post-grad study (communications and publishing)
3. Apply for a J1 visa for the USA
4. Continue writing and work on getting more and more published
5. Save $5-10k
Longer term (1 – 3 years):
1. Move to the US for a year
2. Travel more
3. Try to semi make a living writing
4. Finish my masters
Long term (3 years plus):
1. Write a book
2. Own a cafe
3. More travelling
I won’t pretend to remember what you were wearing the first time I met you. I won’t pretend to know where we were, or what was said and I won’t pretend that it was love at first sight. I was drunk and newly single – you really could’ve been any one that night. It’s only by chance that it was you.
I don’t know how many times we met before we became friends. I don’t know how many texts were exchanged and I don’t know if I even thought much about you back then, or if I even thought much of you at all.
What I do remember is dating you during a really fucked up time. So much so, that those events overshadow anything we had together. What I do know is we hooked up a handful of times over the years before we got around to making it official. I do know that we kept coming back to each other, even in spite of other people, and in spite of distance.
I remember having lazy sex with you on your bed with the broken slats. I remember all the times you tried to hold my hand but I wouldn’t – or couldn’t. I remember you going down on me upstairs on the couch while your housemates talked downstairs and I remember it was fabulous.
How did it all end, all those years ago? I vaguely remember your arrogance and laziness. You were selfish and demanding. We always argued. I was closed off and stressed. Self-conscious and young. Inexperienced with relationships – I hadn’t been faithful to anyone yet – and I wasn’t going to start with you.
Maybe this time we could be great. Maybe we’ve always meant to be more than we were. We may have been a byproduct of bad timing, and maybe we needed all those years apart to grow separately, before we could come together successfully.
Or maybe I’m just slipping into patterns of nostalgia because it’s easy. Because I’m sick of being alone.
You’re like getting into an old pair of comfy jeans that remembers the curve of my body. I don’t need to struggle into you to make you fit. We don’t need to start afresh with the introductions and the story sharing. We can just be. So much time has passed that all our old hurts are long forgotten. All those scars healed a long time ago, leaving behind only friendship and pleasant memories of a time from when we were younger. A time when life was a little simpler.
Whenever I’m between great loves in my life (which is often) I find myself in these inbetween relationships. You know, those relationships that never get defined. There’s never a “talk” and they generally just peter out with neither you or them feeling very sad about it.
Because when I’m in love, I’m in LOVE. I’m not one of those people who falls for someone easily. In fact, I find it stupidly hard to like people or to want to be in a relationship. Because of this I find myself in these weird little hook ups all the time. They’re fun, the sex is good, but I know I don’t really like them, or respect them. And I most definitely do not let them in.
If you’re like me, and you’re waiting for a real, deep love connection – it’s lonely. And you need these inbetweeners, even if just for orgasms, or spoons, or head pats, or someone to text so you don’t feel so alone.
I wanted to write a post about these relationships, because I always forget them. They get left by the wayside, forgotten amongst the fond memories I hold of those “real loves”. The real relationships.
Just because they were inbetweeners, it shouldn’t belittle their role in my life any less. It doesn’t mean they didn’t play an important part, it was just one filled with less drama, and less feelings and therefore less memories, or writing.
I’m in one of those in-between relationships at the moment. And it’s nice. He’s nice. I’m nice to him. He’s young. But the sex is fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.
There are no feelings at all.
Nothing more than friendship at all. And it’s the same for him. We’re both still getting over past hurts, so it’s nice to have a friend. Who you can bang the brains out of and also get spoons whenever you need.
After a long wait, I had finally arrived at my destination.
I paused in the doorway to take it all in: a gold ornate chandelier dangled from a two-story high ceiling, all framed by beautiful white archways. A harlequin tiled floor peeked through the rubble with green foliage dotted about in random clumps. It was beautiful, it was majestic, it was… “Hey, watch it!” someone shoved past me, “you’re blocking the door.”
No, I wasn’t in some grand, yet peaceful, church in Europe, I was in Swedish retail giant, H&M, on the hectic second day their doors had opened to the Australian public.
The promise of cheap prices and on-trend, fast fashion had lured me in. Same as every woman, man, child and their dog. So lured in I had stood in that ridiculous line over two hours for the chance to grab one $15 top and a $20 pair of pants.
On the tram ride home I reflected on the past five hours, thoughts swirling around in my head. I may have saved $100 plus, but how could they offer these unbelievable low prices? What impact would this have on local Australian businesses and designers?
And – as I hung the top and pants up in my already full and bursting wardrobe next to a similar top and an even more similar pair of pants – I wondered what fast fashion meant for the future of the environment.
If you’ve ever bought clothing from Sportsgirl, Dotti, H&M or Zara, you’ve purchased fast fashion. Fast fashion means retailers no longer stick to seasonal selling and instead churn out new stock on a regular basis.
Although still a relatively new concept in Australia, we have had enough time for it to alter our consumption habits.
Britain’s Topshop landed in Melbourne during 2011 and Spanish megastore Zara followed a few months behind. With H&M’s plans to open more than 55 stores in Australia, fast fashion well and truly has us in its grip.
But what does this really mean? Why should we oppose cheaper clothes and why should we deny ourselves a wider variety of immediate trends?
Because fast fashion has no long-term sustainability.
In Elizabeth L. Cline’s book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, she describes overflowing waste in America’s landfills and extra costs to charities for recycling your unwanted donations. She talks of garment factories in polluted China, and sweatshops in Bangladesh.
And, according to Cline, the industry in China is showing signs of distress.
“Because of the country’s one-child policy, the labor pool of young workers is finally shrinking, and young people, many of them children of first-generation migrant factory workers, are choosing to better their lives by going to college and looking for office jobs instead of factory-line work,” says Cline.
“As a result of this confluence of massive changes in China, labor costs are surging, by as much as 10 percent to 30 percent per year.”
Michael Kane, of American brand, Karen Kane, attests to this, “In China, prices have really started to go up incredibly. The rate it’s occurred is phenomenal. It’s not even competitive to produce there anymore.”
To keep providing low prices, says Cline, retailers have moved to poorer countries – like Bangladesh, India, Cambodia and Vietnam. These places lack the infrastructure of China to support the exponential growth of the industry.
Relaxed labour laws and no union support mean factory workers work a minimum 12 hours a day, with one day off a week. Or, in even worse cases, one day off per month.
An even bigger factor to consider is the safety of the workers.
In 2013, at least 200 Bangladeshi garment workers died when their eight-story factory collapsed on them.
“Global buyers who buy cheap apparel from Bangladesh do audit safety issues in factories, but these audits are often not actual inspections,” says Babul Akhter, head of the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, an Amsterdam-based textile rights group, estimates at least 700 workers have died since 2006.
The safety and rights of the low-paid unskilled workers who make our garments are not the only factors to consider, there is also the huge environmental impact.
In Australia a 2010 study by Constanza Bianchi and Grete Birtwistle found textiles make up four per cent of current landfill.
This may not seem like a huge number but if you consider that nearly 100 percent of textile waste is made up on recyclable materials, why is any of it ending up there?
In America – where fast fashion has been around much longer – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found textile waste had increased by 40 percent since 1999.
We also need to think of the environmental impact to the countries that churn out our must-have trends.
Polyester makes up around 50 percent of garments. Polyester is, in effect, just plastic. Plastic that carries a heavy ecological footprint.
I did a Google search on “pollution in China caused by garment factories” and turned up article after article on the negative effects caused by the large scale manufacturing.
In January this year, Greenpeace found a textile treatment plant had discharged toxic waste into the ocean roughly the size of 50 Olympic pools.
“From China to Bangladesh, rivers run purple, blue and black with waste from garment factories. Locals say they can tell what colors are in fashion by looking at the river. Meanwhile, the air is so thick with toxic fumes- it causes regular nosebleeds, fainting, and retching- especially in children,” writes Goldman Staff on the Goldman Environmental Prize blog.
And this is only beginning to scrape the surface.
Fast fashion has also had a negative impact on the quality of vintage items in America, says Cline.
Decent second-hand clothing has become harder to find due to low-quality, fast fashion. This gives consumers less reason to shop second-hand and has a negative impact on recycling.
When faced with a decision between a $7 second-hand H&M top with a missing button, and a brand new H&M top for just a few dollars more, I know what I would have previously chosen.
In protest to the increasing rise of fast fashion, the concept of slow fashion is now gaining traction.
Slow fashion “celebrates personal style, encourages education, promotes conscious consumption, values quality and asks us to slow down,” says website, SlowFashioned.org.
It’s about becoming educated and asking where, how and who has produced your garment. It means paying more for pieces that will last longer. It means mending, sewing, altering or designing your own clothes. It means thinking long and hard about the far reaching consequences of that $10 top. It means considering the real cost (hint: it’s much more than the label price).
An advocate of the slow fashion movement is Elaine Briggs, founder of Australian label, Cosi.
“In the UK, cheap, mass-produced clothing has had a major impact on a large number of high-end European designers. Some survived, many did not. I believe that the Australian market is soon to mirror the UK experience,” says Briggs.
“A fast fashion shawl is one of maybe 400 made in one day by machine-operating, low-paid, unskilled workers. We strive to create products treasured for generations and handed down – the antidote to the throw-away society. Fast fashion is not evil, but its constant need for ‘new’ is just not sustainable.”
Armed with my new knowledge I returned to H&M a few weeks later to see if it was still teaming with people. Although thankful that the line had disappeared, the busy hoards of shoppers that greeted me was saddening.
Where once I had grabbed armfuls of the latest fashions to try on in the change-room, I now looked around and saw only a vast array of poorly manufactured clothes.
When once I filled with awe at the styling of mannequins, who looked as though they had just stepped off a Paris runway, I now felt only disgust with myself for buying into the shoddy illusion.
As I touched the cheap material, seams almost falling apart in my hands, I saw the blood, sweat and tears of the workers in China, in Bangladesh, in Cambodia. I smelled the musty, rotting scent of landfills, slowly bloating with textiles around me. I heard the sounds of marine life drowning under colourful toxic waste dumped in the ocean.
And I tasted our collective regret for the future if we continued along our current path.
And I looked at him in that moment and saw it clearly. Him, thirty years on. I saw everything he was and everything he would be. I glimpsed the future, and it scared me. No longer young and innocent, he was now a caricature of his former life.
His youth lost on wayward ventures. Or ventures never taken. Scared of change and scared of failure. A life and talent wasted. I saw all this in a fleeting moment, surrounded by laughter and drunks kissing sloppily over G&Ts. I saw him properly.
It broke my heart.
The Drums are playing in the background and I realise that I’ll probably never listen to this band in the same way again. Your mouth is moving but I’m not really comprehending the words and, although I think they’re saying something like “I don’t love you anymore”, I’m not sure and my brain isn’t really making sense of it. The music keeps going, but it sounds further away now. You’re gesturing and you look concerned, your eyes darting side to side. I don’t think you’re sure how to process this – maybe my silence has caught you off guard. I notice a fly out of the corner of my eye and its rubbing its two front legs together and in front of me you’re fidgeting. I think you probably just want to leave but I don’t want you to leave because this may be the last time I see you. An icy breeze blows through the cracked window. I’m chilled to the bone. The fly takes off, buzzing towards the window. And then, without a backwards glance, you leave as well.
I wrote this back in December 2011. I’ve just refreshed it a little.
I imagined you liked me as well – but conversations we have had since then have indicated otherwise. I imagined you couldn’t keep your eyes off me. I imagined you flirted with me. I imagined there was a spark.
I couldn’t stop wanting to touch you and when you lay on my legs I had butterflies while your hair was tickling my shins.
You told me later you didn’t really notice me at first; I was quiet and didn’t talk much. But at the end I was drunk and got bold. I asked for your number and you gave it to me. I decided from that moment you would be mine.
We texted back and forth; I liked our rapport.
I imagined a life with you – cuddles, shower talks on the floor. We would get drunk and share all our stories. You would tell me all your secrets and I would trust you. You would be someone I could love. I imagined one day we’d travel together, have kids, get married.
I thought about all these things.
We hadn’t even been on our first date yet.
You don’t know these things.
I never told you.
We started dating. I spoke about you to a friend – I told her I didn’t really like you, but I would “textbook romance” you as an experiment.
That was a lie.
I was embarrassed to admit I had actually fallen for a boy. I had been single for so long and was adept at pretending I was happy. I had always wanted people to think that I was strong and if people knew how miserable I was, how hard it was to get through life from time to time, they wouldn’t be friends with me.
I fooled you into thinking I was a happy, normal, functioning human being.
But I wasn’t.
The first time you experienced me – the real and crazy, sad and miserable me – you were shocked. I thought I would lose you. I loved you so much. I had come to rely on you for my happiness.
I cried for so long – soul-wrenching tears that exploded from the black hole inside me. I cried not for just for thinking I had lost you, I cried for myself, for all the pain inside. For all the loathing.
It didn’t last though and we moved in together. The day you agreed I was over the moon – we would be together forever! You really wanted to be with me.
You wanted to be with me!
You had accepted me. You had seen the crazy but yet you stuck around. Even when I tried to manipulate you. Even when I tried to push you away.
You didn’t leave.
I thought: he must really love me. No one else has ever stuck around; no one else could put up with it.
I would be ecstatic in your company, but in a matter of seconds I could hate you. I could hate you so bad and hurt so hard that my heart would feel as though it would shatter into a million pieces.
How does one let a person have so much power over their self?
You never showed me your emotions, not even when drunk. I constantly wondered how you felt about me, I was constantly unsure. Always teetering on the edge of trying to seem blasé about the uncertainty or demanding you express yourself to me.
Did you love me?
Did you want to be with me?
Did you even care?
Would I ever be able to break your heart? Or could I ever make you so happy that you felt your face would split from the huge smile on your face?
I would lie with you in bed and touch your cheeks. Run my hands through your hair and trail my finger along your brow. I would look into your eyes and feel your body wrapped around mine.
My heart would try to beat out of my chest.
You are so beautiful.
Your skin is so soft.
Your body is perfect.
I loved to watch the mole on your bum and the cute way you squirmed when I touched your feet. The way you would wrinkle so easily in the shower.
You are my best friend.
But then I left.
And now I’ve lost you forever.
My friends have started introducing me, and writing off my rage at the inequalities in society, by explaining that I am “sort of a feminist”. As though it’s a bad thing to believe that women deserve everything that men have. As though by way of excusing away my forthrightness on the topic, they’re separating themselves from me – labelling me and shoving me away in that dirty little box where they themselves definitely do not reside.
Feminist shouldn’t be a dirty word; feminist should be a label that all women wear proudly.
I’m yet to come across any of my friends who don’t want equality in the workplace and who don’t want to vote. I’m yet to come across any of my friends who believe that their rightful place is in the kitchen, and I don’t know any who don’t have career aspirations, drives or goals.
There’s a lot of shit I’ve put up with and even believed – listening to my numerous guy friends through the years talk rudely about girls – making jokes about being a good housewife, or only being good for one thing.
And yeah, it’s fucking disgusting, but when it’s something that’s so accepted in society, and you’re young, you don’t know how to deal with those kinds of comments. And so you let them slide, and you may even let them seep into your psyche, altering your own view of yourself.
You let these comments affect you – but who is to blame?
We are a product of the media; we are a product of advertising, society and the imagery and popular culture that surrounds us.
So if it’s all around us, how do we get out of it?
We start small.
Instead of berating the women around us, we embrace them. We start to love the little flawed things about their bodies, about their faces, about each other. The things that make us unique, and different to the overly Photoshopped mannequins on the pages found in our magazines, on our TV’s and in our newsfeeds.
We refuse to buy and laugh at celebrity women who are belittled in gossip magazines for their bodies – whether they’re “scary skinny” or “obese”.
We recognise that every woman has a right to walk through life without being judged for the clothes she wears.
We look up to older women as mentors and role models. And we view younger women, not as threats, but with respect and kindness.
We refuse to stay quiet when someone is degrading a woman and we refuse to judge women on their sexual adventures (or lack thereof).
We remain open minded. And honest. And we are not afraid to stand up for what we believe is fair and right.
We keep our respect for men, because we love them. And we remember that feminism is not hating men.
We start small. Because just by changing our opinion, and our voices, we can have a positive impact on those around us.
We start small.
We start by embracing ourselves as Feminists.