My 30th Year Challenge

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday. Yes, I’m officially old. At least that’s what my eight-year-old foster daughter says. For a while now I’ve been trying to think of a way to do something memorable and inspiring for this milestone year. Something that will benefit my life in some way. First I thought about running a marathon, but then I realized I’m terrible at running. I’m a fair weather runner and I live in a climate where it rains about eight months or more out of the year. Then I started trying to think of something that would challenge me to learn about myself and how I choose to live in this society, which led me to thinking about our culture of consumerism. Eventually I settled on the idea of a year long “consumption protest”. I got the inspiration for the idea from a blog I’ve been following called One Dress Protest. Blogger Kristy Powell has decided to wear one dress for an entire year. Here’s some of what she has to say:

“I have had a complicated and complex history with clothing, much like anyone else living in 21st century America. By this, not only do I mean in the ways I have identified the overcritical expectations that our society places on women and the clothes we wear, but also the perplexing friction in how those expectations make me feel about myself.

Thus, I’ve set out to explore what it looks like to openly, publicly and boldly survey what clothes and fashion mean to me, and to investigate some of the more meaningful implications the world of clothes have for our lives and hearts.”

My protest is not quite as extreme as only wearing one dress, however the idea is the same. I hope to do some soul searching about what my own identity is founded in, while not buying new clothes for one year, starting tomorrow on my birthday. My goal is to find more time each day to create art, to write, to spend with my family and friends, maybe even to go for a run, because I won’t be worrying about trying to put together a perfect outfit or keeping up with the latest fashion trends. I also want to put some action to all my words and ideas about simplicity. It’s too easy to get swallowed up in this perception that we need to look a certain way in order to be socially acceptable. Who created this impossible standard? The media? The clothing companies themselves? It all comes back to consumerism. 

I’m on a journey of discovering life outside of constantly trying to achieve this perfect image. Perfectionism is a lost cause. There are too many more important causes to be wasting time and energy and money on striving to look perfect. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop fixing my hair and make-up or enjoying the clothes I do own, I don’t intend to become grungy. I just want to embrace my flaws and see that every scar tells a story, and accept the fact that I am unique and the way I look and how others perceive me doesn’t define who I am. Satisfaction will never be discovered at a department store and happiness won’t be found in the mirror.  

So, that’s my challenge, no new clothes for one year. Instead focus on standing up for the causes and the people I love. Here are my self-imposed rules for the challenge:

1. No new clothes, unless for absolute necessity. If in a few months all my jeans have holes, I’ll buy some at a thrift store.

2. Socks and undies don’t count. No need to explain that rule.

3. If I wear out my running shoes, I’ll buy a new pair. I’m being optimistic on that one.

I wonder what other ways you all have found to challenge yourselves and discover your true identity? I’d love to hear about it.

I recently came across this video by Caitlin Crosby and loved it. Enjoy.


Originally written on 8/29/2011


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