I went to the mall today. Let me clarify – I very begrudgingly went to the mall today. It all started out with an iphone. Yes, shudder, about a month ago I got an iphone. If it’s possible to be in love with an inanimate object, I am - though I feel like I need to hide this amazing piece of modern technology because I’m so stinkin broke that I have absolutely no business owning one. Just for the record, my contract on my cell phone was up so it was only $99 when I signed my soul over for another two years. Still, it was $99 more than I should have been spending. I kinda justified it with the reasoning that I work an average of 12 hours a day and I really haven’t bought anything for myself in years outside of the necessities and the occasional latte. I deserve something for working my ass off every day. Yeah, I’m rationalizing. Truth is, I probably shouldn’t have spent the money. And I would have major buyer’s remorse if I wasn’t so in love. So, here I am, a month with this amazing toy, and out of nowhere the battery starts draining in like two hours. For 3 days I charge my phone, go to work, and two hours later it’s dead. Now, my iphone is great, but it doesn’t do me much good without a working battery. I start to get super depressed at the realization that my toy was short lived, and because I didn’t spring for the $100 warranty package I’d have to go back to my old phone for another two years. Suck. My last hope was that the guys at the apple store could help me. Turns out, there’s an apple store at the mall right next to my house. And they were, by the way, able to fix my battery problem for free. But to get to said apple store, I had to brave the mall. I dislike the mall. These days I tend to avoid the mall like the plague.
So, I’m getting ready to go to the mall. I do what any girl would do…put on my running attire. Yes, I wore my running attire to the mall because looking like I’d just gone on a run seemed more acceptable than the frumpy look of having no decent clothes that fit me. That, and being my day off, I had absolutely no desire to spend time on my hair and make-up. Not that I spend time on my hair and make-up every other day when I do go to work (It’s not really my first priority when I roll out of bed at 3am). But...I was feeling particularly lazy today.
Aaaanyways…I find a parking spot and do my best to hold my head up high and not feel inferior as I walk through the doors of Nordstrom. I do a little speed walk to the entrance of the rest of the mall (I am in my running shoes after all) and then it hits me. I see the wide expanse in front of me and I start to panic. So many stores. So many glorious stores that I can no longer afford. My chest starts to tighten as I trudge straight ahead to the apple store. I get there and breathe a sigh of relief. No more clothes…no more reminders of what I used to have…no more tiny mannequins glaring at me and the body I am not the slightest bit comfortable in. Just me, my running shoes, and my iphone. I talk to the guy at the front of the apple store and he puts my name in the computer then tells me my ‘apple genius’ will see me at the ‘genius bar’ in exactly 55 min. 55 minutes? Crap. I decide to suck it up and kill a little time by roaming the mall.
Out I walk into what used to be familiar territory. I almost feel disassociated as I’m walking, trying to stay present while being accosted by all the people at the kiosks lined up one after another in the center of the walkway – ‘try an herbal tea sample…learn Spanish in a week…this skin cream will make you look 15 years younger…try our new weight loss formula and lose 10 pounds in a week’. Obviously the best defense was to stay as close to the perimeter of the walkway as possible, where sales men and women couldn’t attack. I hadn’t walked more than a few yards when I look up to see it…BANANNA REPUBLIC. Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, White House/Black Market…all right there. My three favorite stores. I had a walk-in closet made up entirely of clothing from these three stores - back when I was financially secure, and confident in my career, my future, and where I was going. Back when I was headstrong and hopeful (okay, I’m still headstrong – just not always in a productive way). Back before I lost my business, before I lost everything to an eating disorder that landed me in hospitals and treatment centers for years. I still have a lot of that wardrobe, though very little of it fits, and even if it did, the phrase ‘all dressed up with no place to go’ comes to mind.
I decided to dig the knife a little deeper by wandering through my coveted Banana. The smell…oh that lovely familiar smell. I look around at the lighting. Did you know I used to do the lighting design for Banana Republic stores while I worked at an electrical engineering firm in Austin? Yep…I did. Oh, to wear slacks and heels to work again…to feel like a professional. I find myself gravitating toward this gorgeous sweater. I turn over the price tag…$188. I fight back tears as I’m reminded of how much my life has changed. Not that all of the changes are bad. But it’s different from what it used to be, from what I wanted it to be, from where I thought I’d be at 33…oh so different.
Today I look at the $188 price tag on the sweater and think of all the homeless people that could feed. I think of how much less stressed I’d be if I just had an extra $188 to help pay bills or buy groceries or gas. $188 means a lot more to me now than it ever did before. I’m grateful now for the ability to see things from a different perspective. I know I’m still very well off compared to many people. But I also know what it feels like to be one paycheck away from not being able to pay rent. I do have some luxuries. I have internet and cable (and now my beloved iphone), but I also wrap in blankets in the winter and sweat in the summer to avoid spending extra money on heating and cooling. I do my laundry at the Laundromat. I now shop at the DI for my work pants. Sometimes I get lucky and find someone’s used pair of Banana khaki’s for $6. That’s a good day!
I want what I once had. And I feel guilty for that. Is it wrong to want to have extra money for material things? I don’t just want material things. I want to have money to donate to charities and time and energy to volunteer more. But I want my Banana back. I want to have fancy dinners to go to, and concerts, and wine tasting events to wear my nice clothes to. I want to feel like a professional. I want to not feel like I’ve been defeated when I walk into a mall. I want to have money to finish my dietetics degree…to move back to Austin. I work soooo so so so hard, and I’m proud of that. Once I get over the fact that I’m working in a retail setting I’m even kinda proud of what I do – I’m in charge of a hell of a lot of stuff. But…I want more. I don’t care to be super rich. But oh what I’d give to be comfortable again. Is that wrong? Is that gluttonous? Sometimes I think I need to mourn what I once had and move on. After all, in many ways I AM a completely different person…a person that I’m still trying to figure out. But I don’t know that I’m ready to move on entirely. Somehow that feels a little like admitting defeat.