OH MY! I DID IT!: The Commencement Speech

January 1, 2012 (A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!)

Items Purchased: 1, Temptation Radar: 0 (What’s temptation anyway?)

“You must begin to see that in every acorn there is an oak tree.”  This, a simple but profound truth,  has changed my heart and restructured my life’s course.  I heard it during a time when I was busy admiring statuesque dreams….and firmly planted tree-like people who seemed to me successful in discovering a better way of living.  I guess you could say I began hanging from the branches of their journey, basking in the shade of their knowledge, and of course trying my best to keep the pace of what “successful families & people do”. In general, I think folks go along in life believing in a list of things they should do, should achieve, and should  aspire toward.  The List is based often times on a variety of content: spiritual/religious heritage, inspiration of others, mistakes of the pasts, wounds, failures, successes and even social pressures. Sometimes, in our attempts to arrive at the grown-up, well-defined and successful version of ourselves, we spend more time basking in distractions and acquiring milestones, than asking the important questions which yield the answers we really need; the answers that hold the key to who we really are and where we are destined to travel. I realized that I was admiring endless avenues of oaks, yet ignored my own seed, its components and even the barriers hindering its growth.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog, these concepts are not alien to you. Pressed tightly in a sandwich of self-revelation, humor and questions, you’ll remember that these are the type discoveries that have peeked through the words of my posts. In late 2010, I was astounded to realize that I’d become a caricature of sorts, with regard to fashion and shopping. It was funny and cute to be the girl who always had an eye for what was “in”, who shopped as a means of personal nutrition, and to laugh off credit card debt, impulse shopping, and piling on stuff. “That’s just Aimee”, they’d say. But somewhere, lodged deep inside, was a dissatisfaction with this crazy facade I’d created based solely on a series of humorous, yet rather sad behaviors. Deep down, a longing to know “How did I get here? “began to surface Certainly, there is more to life than clothes and cuteness?  Right? Have I allowed this love of fashion and shopping to take over? A 10 year anniversary trip to Paris sent me searching. It was unexpected.  I looked back at the course of my life and realized that I’d placed life-threatening emphasis on shopping and acquiring stuff.

I told my husband the last week of 2010 that I was going on a 1 year shopping sabaticle. I would not purchase clothes for 1 year. He rolled his eyes. He does this a lot where my ideas are concerned. Excited and fully believing, I shared the news with my mother who said “Don’t you think you could select a more realistic New Year’s Resolution?” Ugh. It is not really a RESOLUTION. I had the whole Jerry Mcguire,  “It’s a Mission Statement” sort of feeling about it. I could sense that she’d stamped failure on me before I’d even sealed the envelope.  I shared with others who had similar responses, and even more simple ones like, “Why???? Why in the world would you want to do that?” At the time, it was difficult to articulate the “whys” because they were unclear to me. It seemed like very few others could relate. But, I ventured out one day at a time.

I remembered monumental gifts or purchases I received as I child and assessed the emotional value of those. Out of these memories, posts  like “Take A Walk in My Keds” were born, and it became a reader favorite. I also felt the frustration very early on; the yearning of my flesh to cave in. But, instead of crumbling, I invited the opportunity to analyze shopping triggers. From this discovery, posts such as “Gain De Pain” and “The Retail Preservationist” sprang forth.  I’d unearthed a treasure.  I was learning about  myself and how to become a better me: all seemingly contingent on the depth of surrender on this one vice. Temptation creeped again when I was enamoured, unsuspectingly,  by a Kay Unger Fashion Show last spring. I stood in my kitchen with big crocodile tears telling the story of  “Buying bulimia, Fashion Shows, Flattery & Meltdowns” to my husband before penning it to you.  I’ve shared the pain of buyer’s remorse and the glee of the perfect purchase.  It’s been fun to observe glimpses of me in my children; my favorite reflection of this in posts like “Much Ado About Shoes” and“Livirella.”

By the time the summer came, I’d spent a few gift cards, yet felt the tantalizing pull of the mall waning. I trashed catalogs, went out browsing less often, stopped internet stalking, and added more weight to my fast. I decided in late July to also forgo purchases of shoes, and accessories. Some people thought, she’s NEVER going to make it now.  So did I, quite frankly.  I remember feeling assured that people were as bored with my shopfast and my rambling as I was, and decided to try to do things differently: Maybe the blog could be about my style, or good deals, or finding treasures? Maybe I could simply give fashion advice while not shopping, or better yet, just indulge in link love and promoting other bloggers? Yes. That would be WAY more fun. But, I couldn’t get away with that. This blog was never about being published or adored by a community of bloggers.  It was never about how many followers, likes, comments (although always welcome) or linking to twitter/blogger/linked in… whatever.  It was never about fashion or style, because seeing past those things was clearly part of the personal metamorphosis.

This blog became, quite evolutionarily, about overcoming.

By the end of the year, I’d become quite accustomed to enjoying the things I have, paying off a couple of credit cards (although I still have 1). I said to my husband last night, “I believe the reason I couldn’t pay off that last card was because then this journey could easily have been mistaken for a debt reduction program.” You see, I still have a little debt and I still have  a little love for a sale, but I’m not ruled by either. That’s the real victory. I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do, which was overcome a shopping addiction, and enjoy more of life’s offerings. I’ve read more, studied more, tried new things (even organic diet and Pilates) and widened the plane of perspective. I still find it amazing, that this unpublished project has captured 35,000 hits since January 1 2011. So, I thank you, the readers, for loving me during this very powerful time. I trust you laughed a lot. I hope you can look into the seed-like nature of what either propels you or slows your own personal growth, and face it….unafraid.

So, what now? Who knows. I went out for a little bit with my sister yesterday who was eager to test the validity of my transformation. What she really wanted was to see me BLOW IT OUT! BUY SOMETHING BIG!

“BUY SOMETHING!”, she exclaimed.

Nothing seemed good enough. Nothing was, in this case, really WORTH it. I remembered the $20 bucks of Kohl’s cash tucked securely in my wallet. It expires tomorrow. So,  in the spirit of breaking fast, I bought a knock-off version of the pleated chiffon skirt I admired at Nordstrom a few months back. It was nearly the same color, shorter in length and discounted by 70%. I paid $15..in Kohl’s bucks. The irony. Kristin, being way too smart to let me get away with that, chimes “You didn’t even break your fast.” Thanks, sister.

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12 responses

  1. Congrats. I’m kind of glad you didn’t break the fast. I think that makes the biggest statement. What I found most interesting, was that you didn’t say “that’s a great deal” on any merchandise. That used to be your #1 shopping phrase. Well, we each came away with one item discounted 50%+. Our wallets are still in tact, and luckily, we always find a way to pick up some priceless merchandise: family bonding!

  2. Congratulations, Aimee. And not for making it a year without new self-purchased clothes. It’s clear that the $ you saved in capping expenditures paid off a debt to yourself. It really was then, in a way, a debt reduction program. You owed it to yourself to tend that sapling – allowing it to be pruned and shaped – and grow in ways that were wonderfully surprising. How organic!

    By the way, when I think about your blog, your beautiful and artistic words, your openness and vulnerability towards an unknown audience, your boldness and courage in taking on this endeavor and then speaking about hard truths, I think to myself, (and always have), “that’s just Aimee!” 🙂

    • Kate,

      I can’t help but remember our conversation last January on your porch….before you took on a new career, a husband and a baby, and you said to me (regarding Shopfast) along the lines “I’m just excited to see how it unfolds and the shape it will take and what you will learn.” We’ve BOTH had an extraordinary year. Love you much!

  3. Aimee – I am beyond proud of you for this past year…for all that you did overcome, for the way God revealed more of Himself and His desires for your life through the process, and for the way you were able to be so self-aware and articulate in sharing each step with the whole blog world. You are an inspiration!

    • Beth,

      You’ve been such an encouragement and strength to me along the way. I’m always inspired by the example you set in the areas of honesty and frugality…certainly two of your most admirable assets. Thank you for being my friend and traveling this road with me.

  4. I’m so proud of your accomplishment! I’m especially glad you shared your adventure. Could I please get a copy of the book? I hope you continue to blog your thoughts and insights as they inspire, uplift and entertain me! I plan to read this blog now from start to finish so I hope you leave it up awhile. My heart is happy that you and Kristin shared such a nice shopping day together. Moments that my children spend together making memories and loving each other let me think I may have done something right! Love you!

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