Choosing Meaning and Magic in a Culture of Disposability

“As soon as it’s in Vogue, it’s over,” my professor stated flatly as we stood on a noisy corner in the heart of New York City’s fashion district. “What?” I thought, as his words began to sink in, “How can something brand new be ‘over’, just because someone wrote about it in a magazine?”

I was nineteen, and I was in the city as part of a field trip for a college program in fashion design. I had started out passionate, ready to bring my creative talents and aesthetic sensibility to the fun and exciting world of fashion. It was something I had dreamed about since I was a little girl, drawing outlandish outfits in my notebooks with colored pencils.

As I learned more about the industry, I began to question what it was really about and whether I could be truly happy in this field. When my professor made his dispassionate declaration on that grimy corner in Manhattan, I knew that what was really “over” was my career in fashion design.

This was not the first time I had encountered disposability culture and it certainly was not the last. It was, however, a stark moment of realization for me about the kind of culture I was living in and the kind of work I wanted to do in the world.

I was somewhat naive at age nineteen, but even then I knew that I didn’t want to be on some hamster wheel of production, consumption, and disposal for the rest of my life.

I wasn’t about to give my creative talents to an industry that would toss out anything I made the second someone wrote about it in Vogue. I wanted to create something real, lasting, and meaningful.

This experience marked a major shift in my worldview. The version of reality I had been sold by popular culture began to crumble and was replaced by increasing awareness. I recognized cultures of disposability everywhere.

Cultures of disposability live in the grocery store aisles, with all of our plastic packaging and packaging within the packaging. They live in our school systems, where students flunk out and teachers burn out by the hundreds every day. They live in our Amazon warehouses and our gas-guzzling cars and our desperate need to consume, consume, consume.

Cultures of disposability live in all of our minds, causing us to forget our true natures and the real reasons we are here.

Cultures of disposability are exploitative. They rob us of our dignity and our humanity. They are toxic to our very life force. They diminish our creativity and keep us trapped in vicious cycles of stress and exhaustion that benefit a few at the top. The systems of exploitation that perpetuate these cultures of disposability will never free us voluntarily.

I have become convinced that the only way to live in new paradigms is to create them.

I don’t want to live in a culture of disposability and overwork. I want to live in a culture that values life, pleasure, and wellness. I want to live in a culture that recognizes the creative genius inside all of us and gives it lots of encouragement and room to grow.

That is why I am here now, writing this. I believe in our collective creative dreams and their power to change the world. I believe that we deserve better than broken systems, outdated paradigms, and cultures of disposability.

I believe that we can create wild magic in our lives and that our magic can ripple out in infinite and unfathomable ways.

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