As the year draws to a close, we are encouraged to carefully consider both the past and the future. The Most Unforgettable Moments of 2019 and How to Make 2020 the Best Year of Your Life are typical headlines. Part of me is drawn to embrace these cultural rituals and ring in the new year like most Americans with a champagne toast and a kiss at midnight.
There’s also my inner cynic who rolls her eyes at the likelihood nothing will be different between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The political circus will continue, and we will remain spectators because it has become entertainment. Our best intentions of fitness overhauls and artistic projects will hush our stubborn habits briefly, until life throws us a curve ball that sends us retreating into our comfort zones.
This time around, I am honoring that annoying little cynic’s voice as a warning signal, not a guarantee. Reflection can be a tool for personal development, and goals can help us take actionable steps toward positive change. Adding to these a recognition of self-sabotaging behaviors with a willingness to stop them, I will proceed slowly in the direction of wisdom. While it may not pertain to a calendar date, any turning of the page, like the turn of a season, symbolizes a passageway.
The last year for me has produced remarkable change and growth. The first half was hijacked by a disabling health crisis and a complete loss of faith in the healthcare system. Eventually I regained my sense of well-being as is, limitations and all. With a renewed perception of an imperfect self, I set out to make what’s left of my life more meaningful.
I have had more interaction with others than any other consecutive twelve months in my history. I call it The Year of Interpersonal Relations. Through it all, I learned things that decades of my existence hadn’t revealed.
The second half of the year was consumed by the planning of a runway show for the benefit of Fashionkind – a project that required an unusual amount of trust in strangers. It was rife with anxious uncertainty, random disappointments and victories, and (best of all) surprising friendships. Strapped to a roller coaster of unpredictability for months, I had no idea what was really in store. When the big day was over on the third of December, the feedback included words like incredible and even magical.
Yet, there was a shadow side nagging at me in fear that the message had been lost in the shuffle. For starters, I was weary. My resources depleted after overextending myself too long, I needed restoration. How could I promote self-care and relationship-building when I was struggling with both? I was also suddenly inundated with more work of the wrong kind. By that I mean the tedious, often futile, tasks that distract us from (and sometimes bury) our overall vision. I had unwittingly opened the door to a tsunami of it.
My intention was to demonstrate that improving lives qualitatively has a domino effect, but I found myself up against a narrative where metrics dominate. To me, what matters most is not how many women we help but that each one believes in her own worth. She belongs. She feels valuable. She matters. These inner strengths overflow into other areas of her life like employment, motherhood, and relationships. That is immeasurable.
For clarification, Fashionkind does not redistribute hand-me-down clothes. We use fashion as an instrument for transformation. The donations of clothing and accessories are either new or like-new, the goal being to uplift the lives of women who are rebuilding their lives after the demoralization of addiction. Originally, we threw around words like self-sufficiency and independence. This was well-meaning but misguided. Because our focus is on the population that has suffered from substance abuse, it is necessary to integrate the very relevant psychological need for interdependence. We are not islands. We are not here only to work and feed ourselves. Fashionkind’s core values have emerged organically: fellowship, creativity, character development.
As Fashionkind moves through its own passageway of maturity, we will boil down all that we’ve learned into one simple concept – work ethic. This encompasses all manner of qualities like accountability, commitment, saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. Our volunteers and apprentices are ambassadors of this integrity. Help us continue the conversation so that we may influence the lives of a marginalized and under-served population.
If you believe in second chances, please consider getting involved as one of your New Year’s resolutions. Follow us to learn more about the far-reaching effects of addiction and substance abuse, as well as the ways we can all promote healing in ourselves and our community. Volunteer your time or donate below to help us continue our mission.
In closing, remember that the past and future are mental constructs. The present is all we have. Don’t forget to take your time and be in it.
About the Author
Johannah Warren is a San Diego-based writer, speaker, and nonprofit founder. Areas of interest include narrative nonfiction, human potential, and addiction recovery.