The moment our plane touched down from Ethiopia, my mind started to reel. There was much to process and even more to savor. I felt light and true and inspired, yes, but even more so – afraid. I feared that I had just experienced a life-changing perspective but would return home to a life not changed. That the permanent smile and sparkling eyes I wore in Ethiopia would fade when faced with the familiar. Could I infuse this newfound perspective into an old-found lifestyle?
And then I remembered the women I met, the rare and few and heroic: Meselu and Anchinalu and Frehiwot. Because they did it. They infused newfound perspectives into old-found lifestyles. They refused to default to the familiar, and instead, made conscious decisions to grow and shift and mold into the women they wanted to become. The women they needed to become – for their families and their communities. For themselves.
These women left lives of prostitution and destitution, turning away from the familiar and into the uncomfortable. And I can do that, too. I can choose to face each day with a conscious decision to rehabilitate myself. Because the truth is, the women I met in Ethiopia weren’t diseased or enslaved or trapped. They were free, songbirds in the sun. They were kind and generous and loving and warm, each choosing to unlock the cages that once held their souls.
They were heroes. It’s the only word I know to explain that kind of transformation – the uphill battle amidst a landslide of misfortune and baggage and injustice.
Since returning home, things have been a bit of a frenzy. There have been deadlines and long hours and exciting launches. And I’ve felt Ethiopia fade a bit into the background – the familiarity of busyness taking center stage. And there have been moments of exhaustion where I’ve thought it would be easy to just stop climbing the hill that begs me to become a better, more appreciative and kind and loving person. Because easy is refusing to bite my tongue. Easy is distracting myself with work. Easy is taking people for granted. Easy is climbing into my cage of familiarity, shutting the blinds and ignoring the needs beyond my four walls.
I find it fitting that the very company that helped transform the lives of these women chose scarves as the avenue to do so. Because not only do scarves provide warmth and protection, but when unwrapped, they offer one heck of a lifeline. A strand of fabric to pull ourselves up our personal hillside – whatever the mountain is that we’re facing.
And so today, I’m unraveling my scarf. The one that bears the name of Genet, a former 12-year-old prostitute who battled addiction, childhood trauma and a slew of past disappointments. Genet’s lifeline was FashionABLE, an organization that wove hope and optimism and opportunity into her story.
And now, she’s weaving the same into mine.
I have more to process, that’s for sure. But for today, I’ll rest in the fabric of this: there are heroes among us. Everyday heroes that climb mountains of self-struggle and swim seas of despair. And sometimes, their story touches us in such a way that we can’t help but become entangled in their heroic journey, woven together like threads of a scarf.
And then, their story becomes our own.
p.s. FashionABLE just launched a brand new fall scarf collection (this one’s my favorite) and leather products (love the clutch!). Each purchase gives women the powerful choice to change their lives through sustainable business opportunities. Thank you, FashionABLE, for providing that choice.