Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Trip Down Memory Lane

via Pinterest - My real-life dorm rooms were never this cool.

As a child of the Internet age, I've been blogging for over half of my life, though little evidence remains. That's by design: a few years back, I specifically went back to delete or make private every old blog I ever kept, partially to protect my privacy and partially because of embarrassment about my old writing. A few days ago, while doing research for another forthcoming blog entry, I found something that I thought I'd never see again, an old blog that I forgot about, circa 2008. Let me just say, oh lordy, it was quite the blast from the past! Some of it made me smile, but I also cringed. A lot. College-aged Xin had eclectic tastes in clothes.  

I could never link that old blog here. It'd thoroughly destroy my anonymity, as I was much less careful then. I also won't be able to go back and destroy the evidence, to my sorrow, as I forget which email address the account is associated with. It'll sit there on the Internet forever, a testament to my youthful enthusiasm for Blair Waldorf's headbands and shopping at Forever 21. 

A few of the many, many thoughts that occurred to me as I browsed my old entries: 

Is it strange that I don't think I'm that much of a better writer now than I was then? I'm sure I am, it's been so long and I've done so much academic and professional writing since, but, well, the last major development in my writer's education was when my freshman writing professor broke me of the habit of using the passive voice (which I've gone back to, sometimes, but much more carefully). Any other changes have been so gradual that I have a hard time identifying exactly what makes the "before" better than the "after."

Related to the above, whatever else was true about 2008 Xin's writing, it had a certain spark and spirit, which I hope translated into a type of charm that my current writing lacks. I had so much bubbly enthusiasm, or righteous indignation, depending on the topic. It's not just because of the passage of time, or increased maturity, that those things are no longer present.

In some of those darker, "why-did-we-choose-this" moments in law school, I've told friends that, adding insult to injury, law school took the very soul out of my writing. While that exclamation is mostly just drama queen-moment exaggeration, there's a grain of truth. In school, we were taught to tone things down, to be objective, to be more subdued and restrained in our writing, all in the interests of clarity. Those things are important for work, but I always feel like it's had a chilling effect on my personal writing, took something away that I can't find again.

Surprisingly enough, a lot of the things I believe about fast fashion and consumption haven't changed much, especially my skepticism about whether we can really trust any brand to be completely ethical and my discomfort that some aspects of more ethical, conscious consumption are made possible, or at least easier, by financial and other privileges.

Still, even if many a would-be fashionista of modest means is contributing to the market for [fast fashion], people like that are hardly the powers that be behind a free market economy or capitalist culture that makes the people behind the big companies think it’s ever alright to pay their workers less than a living wage. Young consumers are products of this culture and world economy, not the cause. Additionally, a lot of upmarket stuff that is not anything close to “fast fashion” is also being manufactured in the same sweatshops.

I wrote that. In 2008. (Presented with minor edits.) It was part of a deeply misguided entry that was ultimately kind-of, sort-of defending fast fashion (sorry! I was so very young and foolish!). I hadn't done the research to back up that last claim at the time, though it's since been borne out by, say, Elizabeth Cline's book on fast fashion. That particular piece of content makes me cringe now, but well, I was a teenager who could only shop at Forever 21, H&M, Target, or Ross and I guess I felt a little defensive about that. Another slightly modified quote from said entry: "It begs the question: if someone cannot afford the “real thing” in terms of organic, free-range chicken or wild salmon (it’s no small thing to buy that for a family of four), does that obligate us to eat naught but potatoes and bread?" Dear me. It all sounds very awkward now, but some of these points have at least a tiny grain of truth, I hope, namely that (a) our power as individual consumers is small when compared to the might of the capitalist system, and (b) that sometimes the more environmentally or ethically conscious choice is necessarily one made possible by privilege. 

Finding that old blog was an interesting and slightly entertaining trip down memory lane, though it was also seriously embarrassing. How long have you been blogging? Do you have any nostalgia for your old blogs or blogging personality? Did you write differently from the way you do now?

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