My Symphony: Hello, I’m In Delaware by Dallas Green
Nine months ago, I donated 106 clothing items to the less fortunate (my first clothing donation during my stay here in Canada). After two years of breathing Vancouver’s air, I finally decided it was time I made some space for new things to come.
I’ve always had so many clothes. As a child, each birthday celebration, each Christmas Eve, each New Year’s Eve and each graduation and awards ceremony meant a new set of t-shirts, pants, briefs, tank tops, socks, shoes and what not. Even on those days when someone who loved me just felt like giving me a little something, it would almost always be something I could put on. So I guess, growing up, I’ve gotten so used to having other people give me the things I wear and I consequently haven’t really been doing the shopping for myself as much. I may own many clothes, but I’ve never been a shopper let alone a fashionista. Everytime someone asks where I buy my stuff, I often do not know the answer and it’s simply because my situation in relation to the question is always N/A (not applicable).
Quantity had also been a very deceiving part of my childhood. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been such a keeper in the most literal sense of the word. I guess the reason why I was so fond of keeping every little thing everyone gave me was because I, apart from being excessively sentimental, was somehow tricked by numbers. I always thought more was more. Everytime I looked into my “memory boxes”, my “high school scrapbooks” and my “gifts locker”, the sight of how much I had never failed to satisfy my emotional hunger for confirmation and validation. I always got a strange elation whenever I saw a dog tag given by an ex-lover or an apology letter written by a friend hiding somewhere in my desk clutter. All those wrist bands, all those pocket pictures, those magic pens, those Science projects, perfume bottles and friendship handkerchiefs – all of it – are a proof that I do delight in my own life’s history. I admit that this is simply the way I am, and that I do not have to change how I treat the material things people give me. But only I know the real meaning behind the difficulty I feel towards letting go of these…these… things. Because to me they have always meant more than just that.
Today, I am once again donating my clothes. This time, the gesture is aimed at those who have been affected by the super typhoon that hit my home country, the Philippines, about a week ago. And right now, I am sitting here and going, “Wait a minute… I didn’t count my clothes today like I did nine months ago.”
Exactly. Why did I even count those 106 clothing items on the first place?
Simple, really. I have detachment issues. Just like most people do, particularly when it comes to the things they wear.
Let’s all be honest about this: donating our clothes, no matter how we genuinely want to give them to those who are in need, is something that leaves us aching in one way or another during the process. Unless you donate clothes that are evidently old and worn out or clothes that don’t fit you anymore, this is not an entirely easy gesture, and it often speaks about the typical human mentality and its fondness of materialism.
It is everywhere in social media – my friends and family, and some of the other people whom I know to a certain degree, have all donated their clothes to the victims of the typhoon Haiyan. It’s all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even YouTube – pictures (and videos) of clothes folded together inside boxes and plastic bags, all captioned with something along the lines of “Donating my clothes to those hardly hit by typhoon Haiyan. Let’s all help in any way that we can”.
Initially, my reaction to this would be something like “Uggh is it really necessary for you to take a picture when you donate something?” or “Wow, that’s very genuine of you. *sarcasm implied*”. But this is just my surface-level personality talking. Because when I really think about it and really consider all the other things, I see that the taking of pictures and the posting of tweets and statuses and videos about donating isn’t a question of how genuine people are in their donations, but a question of how attached they are to the things they’ve donated.
Clothes are a very personal commodity to us humans in the modern world. Everyday, we hear things like “I really like that shirt of yours”, or “You always look good in that blue dress”, or “OMG can I borrow that leather jacket you wore at our high school after-prom party?” What we wear, over a given amount of time, become a big part of who we are. Sometimes, it’s how people recognize us. Other times, it’s how they perceive us to be. There are even circumstances where our clothes speak of our personality or mood at a given moment. I mean, right? These are things we literally live inside of. Not everyone will admit this, but each of us has at least one clothing item which we hold very close to our heart. These things are very intimate to us because they are things that somehow contribute to our characteristics, distinctive qualities and, ultimately, our uniqueness. This is why I do not blame those people who take a picture (or pictures) of their clothing donations, or even those who count their donations. It is human nature. It doesn’t necessarily make a person less sincere; it’s often really just that un-communicated value for really significant things that you are about to say goodbye to. It’s not something that’s conscious to us. You can never see a clothing donation caption that says “Holy shit, I’m gonna miss my Ralph Lauren shirt so much, but I just have to do this because this is the right thing to do. And I am a grown-ass man, so I will not cry, but I still feel very attached. But yeah. It doesn’t really matter. All I’m saying is, I love you, Ralph Lauren shirt, but I’m letting you go.” Like, no. You just never see that. But in some ways, this kind of inner monologue will always be there, even when you don’t acknowledge it. How do I know? Because humans, in general, are materialistic beings.
I feel like I’m about to go into another topic here, but yeah. This much is true. It is something that cannot be denied. We have been conditioned to the rules and the ways of the modern world, and unfortunately for our souls, this also means that we have subconsciously grown very (very) attached to things.
When I was looking inside my cabinet this afternoon, I did not bother sorting out my clothes anymore. I did not bother to think about which ones I’m comfortable giving away, which ones are old enough to give away, which ones are too new to give away and which ones are never gonna be given away. I didn’t have the heart to do that anymore. I honestly just pulled out everything until my entire wardrobe was almost empty. Some of these clothes, I haven’t even worn yet. With tags and all. And I like to think that I’m now completely confident to say that I am no longer a materialistic being, but that would mean I’m lying.
But I’m on my way. I am on my way to shedding off my materialistic ways, and this is the first step. It’s not gonna be an overnight process, oh hell no. But it’s do-able. And it’s definitely preferable, especially for someone like me who has been overly materialistic and sentimental for a good 18 years of his life. This time is the right time for change.
When I think about all those people who are caught in the middle of disaster right now, not just in the Philippines but all over the world, I can’t help but realize that what matters in times when the very core of humanity is shaken isn’t how much money we have in the bank, or how many properties we own, or how many clothes we have in our closet. Because when natural catastrophe strikes, it strikes like a double bitch raised to the seventh power. This is why I love nature so much. Not only is it beautiful, it is also a constant reminder that we do not own this place. And this epiphany has to come with the great recognition that we humans have been too obsessed with things. And that has to change. We should grow attached to people, to relationships, to nature, to ideas, to adventures, to life, to love, and not just things.
I rest my case (for now).