Thoughts On Ethiopia

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And now, she’s weaving the same into mine.

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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.

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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.

  • Erin, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the trip. I love the scarf metaphor of unwrapping into a lifeline. One of the hardest things to do is to be so moved, so changed and then return to the same. However, while your daily life goes on similar to before, your heart and soul are forever changed. Ethiopia and the women at FashionABLE definitely have that effect on you. And you will always be a part of that lifeline to Genet and the others. Beautifully told.

    • Ah, thank you sweet Jeanine. I know you can understand these thoughts much more than most! Biggest of hugs to you, e.

  • Oh Erin, I was looking forward to your post on Ethiopia! Sounds like you are keeping what you learned at the forefront — good for you! And thank you for sharing those links to those awesome products. I want to keep those in mind for gifts for the holiday season! Can’t wait to see you SOON! xoxo

    • Thank you, Gail! And yes – I scooped up quite a few goods for holiday gifts while I was there. As cliche as it sounds, the scarves warm your heart as much as they do your neck (or if you’re like me, head – turban style!). :)

  • I am crying reading this, Erin, at the care with how you describe it.

    I know that turquoise wall. I know that area in the shed with the looms. I know the barbed wire above the stone wall. I know the feeling of hope and optimism just inside the entry door. And I know those very women, those very smiles. I am so glad you got to experience it too. It changes you; it can’t not.

    • Oh Liz – thank you so much for sharing this. Hope and optimism indeed, and my gosh you are right. We can’t not be changed. Love to you, dear.

  • Your ability to express your own thoughts and greater ideas is so unbelievably impressive. This is just beautiful. And, I couldn’t agree more. The world needs more inspiring stories and collaborative work. Thank you for sharing your experience in Ethiopia with us :)

  • Beautifully spoken and very inspiring. I feel the need to get out of the US all the time but the time is just not quite right. I hope when it does happen I will have the same life-altering thoughts as yours, Erin. Best.

  • This is so beautiful Erin, wow. Thank you for sharing this with us and for opening your heart enough to let in all of that transformational and inspiration beauty in Ethiopia. You’re so blessed to have had that experience.
    Will definitely be gifting some FashionABLE pieces in the near future.

    • I’m so happy to hear that – they’re a company I am so thrilled to help support forever and ever. :) And thank you for your kind words. :)

  • Erin, the words you choose to describe your experience are just beautiful. Having been to Haiti twice, I know how hard it is to come back and dive into “regular” life again, wanting to keep all the faces and lives you met in the forefront. It’s a hard balance, but life changing as you process through it. What an amazing experience I’m sure it was for you!

    • Thank you, sweet Maya – it’s been so great to be able to lean on others with similar feelings/experiences throughout my process!

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