For pretty much the entirety of my life I’ve been extremely aware of the problems that plague my nation (try growing up as a queer lower-middle-class Asian woman in a society that believes wealthy white cis-hetero males are superior to everyone else). I’ve often felt hopeless in the face of all of these problems, all of these ways in which this society oppresses myself and others who are considered minorities. But I’ve kept picking myself back up, because I know what is right, and I know that’s what I want to keep fighting for.

In recent weeks, my feeling of hopelessness has increased exponentially. The US government’s extremely inept responses to a devastating earthquake, multiple category 4 and 5 hurricanes, and a mass shooting were extremely disheartening. Here are all of these wealthy white men wielding their unearned power to perpetuate ignorance and add to the destruction. Here is a media that perpetuates the status quo by continuing to blame my generation for everything from the increased use of a certain color of pink to our current economic crisis, dismissing us as “millennials,” ignoring our cries for change, and doing very little to advocate for actual solutions to the problems they report on. Here is a society where those with exorbitant privilege and wealth feel okay just sitting idly by, unwilling to fight for what’s right because that would mean giving up one of their many, many comforts. I feel overwhelmed by the injustices of our world.

But I won’t allow myself to be apathetic toward these problems and lose interest. I can’t allow myself to think of this as the new normal. Because these issues affect us all, whether we want to admit it. Although by no means am I in the highest echelons of society (not that I’d ever be allowed there anyway), I certainly have enough power and resources to do something. So I have to do something. I have a duty to my community, a community called humanity. I think we all have this duty, and those who can most afford to act on that duty should.

My heart goes out to all of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. I will keep advocating for gun control, because no one should have to go through what you went through. When it is easier to buy a gun than it is to buy contraception in some states, there is something gravely wrong with our country.

And my heart goes out to all of the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and to the victims of the earthquake in Mexico. I’ll keep fighting to curb climate change, because I know that the poorest and most disenfranchised people of color are those who will be impacted first. I’ll keep advocating for a government that cares about all of its citizens, because Puerto Rico is a part of our country and Puerto Ricans deserve the same rights and care as those of us on the mainland.

I’m going to take action by upping my donations to organizations advocating for gun control and to organizations fighting climate change. I’m going to continue reducing my carbon footprint. I’m going to work with progressive activist organizations to elect candidates who actually care. And I’m going to pay  more attention to my representatives and hold them accountable. Even if my representatives are progressive and are already fighting for my values, they can always do more.

If you’re feeling hopeless too, I’d advise coming up with a game plan. Donate your time and/or money to help the victims of these climate change disasters. The Hispanic Federation is a great place to start, as they will distribute your donations to areas in need, like Mexico and Puerto Rico. Another good charity is Earthjustice, which uses the legal system to fight against climate change. If you would like to vet a charity before you donate to it, organizations like Charity Navigator provide comprehensive rundowns of various nonprofits’ efficiency and transparency. Call your senators and urge them to fight for gun control and fight for reducing carbon emissions. If they say they’re already working on that, urge them to work harder. And don’t stop thinking about these issues. Don’t let this wash over you and become just another blip in the timeline.

Listening to this podcast also helped me snap out of my feeling of hopelessness. The hosts have a really nuanced, caring, and important discussion about the current events of the past week, specifically the shooting in Las Vegas. They reminded me that, as overwhelming as all of this is, we can’t just stop in our tracks. We’ve got to keep talking about all of these issues. We’ve got to keep acting. Apathy is part of what got us further into this mess.

This blog will return to its usual programming of discussing sustainability and ethical fashion in the next post, but I thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge current events here. I know I do a post like this every couple of months, but with all that is going on, I’m surprised I don’t decide to do this every day. (Admittedly, that’d be exhausting for both you and me.)

Stay safe, keep resisting, and don’t give up. Movements are built through the power of many individuals working together toward justice.

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

An Escape to the Beach

Earlier this month I left the cold, rainy, and snowy weather of Chicago to join M. and his coworkers on a company trip to Puerto Morelos, Mexico. The head of M.’s company had generously paid for all of the employees to spend a few days at a resort, and I figured I would tag along because when else would I have an excuse to do this sort of thing for myself? Unfortunately, the trip wasn’t entirely free for me, but it was nicely subsidized. As someone who has worked for a nonprofit for the past four years, I was very happy to experience some private sector perks.

We spent most of the daylight hours by the beach, lounging oceanside and enjoying this wonderful view:

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The color is slightly enhanced (shh, don’t tell) because my camera was too blinded by the sun to bring out all of those vibrant blues.

The resort was Rainforest Alliance certified, which gave me even more incentive to ensure that my vacation outfits were as eco-friendly and ethically sourced as possible.

At the beach, I sported a pair of sunglasses I bought at Buffalo Exchange (a trendy clothing resale chain that I visit as often as Crossroads Trading) and a bright purple one-piece made from recycled nylon by a brand called Eco Swim by Aqua Green. I had discovered the latter during a desperate search for a replacement for my Speedo, which had served me well for many years but was not conscientiously sourced and is now awfully sun-faded. I kept typing “recycled” into the search bar of my go-to shopping websites to see if there were any stylish and environmentally-friendly options out there. I was hoping for something not too matronly that would keep everything in place while I swim. I got one acceptable search result on one outlet site, and the swimsuit has worked out well so far!

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My best selfie attempt.

For dinner, M. and I had to fancy it up a bit as we were sure the restaurants on the premises would not have appreciated us sitting down to eat in our bathing suits. A couple of weeks before the trip, I had realized that I didn’t have any formal outfits that fit well and have pockets (because women need pockets too). So I spent a couple of hours at Buffalo Exchange (I’m a slow shopper…), where I not only picked up the above sunglasses, but also scored a navy Diane von Furstenberg pencil skirt for $12 and a lace-trimmed yellow and black Sandro top for $15. That’s two clothing items given a new life, and I get to benefit from the high quality of the pieces (both of which would have retailed for well over $100 each) without paying exorbitant amounts. I was particularly drawn to the skirt because it has stretch, a two-way zipper, and large cargo-style pockets that are both practical and an intriguing design feature. As another bonus, the skirt was made here in the United States!

For our first night at the resort, I paired the DVF skirt and Sandro top with some geometric lace tights and a pair of Italian-made, studded leather loafers. I topped this ensemble off with a pair of sparkly earrings that I had “cobbled” together by attaching a couple of crystal-and-chain pendants to clip-on earring findings (taking about all of two minutes):

For our second night out, I wore the DVF skirt again, but this time I paired it with an old Motel Rocks mesh crop top (because the best way to minimize your environmental footprint is to use things you already own!), fishnets, those same blue loafers, and a pair of vintage crystal clip-on earrings from Vintage Underground (one of my favorite mom-and-pop stores in Chicago, first mentioned here):

I felt comfortable and stylish in both outfits, and I know I’ll continue to get plenty of use out of the two new-to-me items that I bought for this trip.

Overall, it was a pleasure for M. and I to spend time together without the stresses of work and social obligations in the background. Our stay was only four days (and most of the first and the last days were lost to traveling from or to the airport) so we decided not to venture out of the resort, but there was plenty to see on the premises too. Not only did we enjoy the beautiful environment and general friendliness of everyone around us, there was also plenty of entertaining wildlife crawling, flying, or swimming nearby. I spent half an hour standing in the pool of water by the gazebo staring at the little tropical fish that had gathered there to take in the shade.

To me, this was all a breathtaking reminder why I am striving to live in an environmentally friendly and ethically conscientious way. The beauty I witnessed during this vacation isn’t guaranteed. I want to ensure that many years down the line all of this vibrant flora and fauna will still be there to greet me. Puerto Morelos, I hope to see you and all your loveliness again soon!

— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to post about the businesses I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.