My name is Sara, and I love Starbucks.
I never thought I would be this person. I never thought I would buy rugs online. I never thought I would have a regular order at Starbucks, or go to Starbucks at all for that matter. I never thought I would spend an afternoon at the Gap and leave with new clothes. I never thought I would have house plants. I never thought I would get an expensive smart phone when I already had a perfectly functional phone at no cost. I never thought I’d be so American.
Why? If you knew me at all you know why. I’ve rejected materialism on principle. Having learned about the sweatshop labor issue, I built my life around avoiding buying anything that I didn’t need or that somehow supported the oppression of other cultures for the sake of having whatever we want whenever we want it. I’m a champion of the Fair Trade cause, convinced that we can have our cake and eat it too and that paying a little more for our tchotchkes can lift others out of poverty without (fully) sacrificing our American Dream altars to Martha Stewart, otherwise known as our homes. I’m not naive, I’m idealistic. The difference being I know the work it will take to create that kind of a reality and am willing to put it in.
Then I moved to China. I know factory owners. Starbucks who used to be the least ethical place to get a cup of joe is now the most ethical place to support. Especially since they recently announced that, thanks to changes they’ve been slowly making, they are 99 percent ethical. (Thank heaven) I have my own place and struggle keeping it clean and organized and catch myself buying things like bleach pens and rugs to fight the dirt and mold that are utterly invasive here. I go through clothes and struggle to find plus sized clothing in an extra small society and thrift stores which were once my go to for anything I needed don’t exist here. Online shopping is my option. Period. Except for the Gap which when in Shenzhen last week, happened to have the black undershirts I’d nearly run out of in my size. Madi and I went there after having lunch at…you guessed it…Starbucks.
Circumstances change. We don’t realize sometimes that things like ethical shopping are in of themselves luxuries our culture can afford. I’m not sipping ethical brews in back ally cafes in thrift store cardigans anymore. My clothes are brand new. My coffee is corporate. And it’s okay. I haven’t given up my convictions, but the things that I know to be important are being implemented differently because what worked in the States will not work here. What is effective in one place will not be effective in another.
Some would call this cognitive dissonance. The tension between conflicting beliefs. But that’s not what this is. But what do you call it when circumstances change and your actions don’t work anymore? New ways of implementing those same convictions must be found. I just haven’t figured it out yet.
Meanwhile I’ve become someone who buys her camisoles at the Gap and caramel macchiatos from the Starbucks. These things have become tools to grow closer to the people around me and I can’t see myself progressing in the ways father has me without these particular tools.
Why did I never think I would be this person? Because I saw that person as someone who cared more about stuff than about people. Who I’ve been would hate this person they were becoming. But the now me recognizes that its really not about the stuff. Were all of this stripped away the relationships would remain. The poor will always be with us. These things father is putting me through are right now. I need to pull the Martha back and scale up the Mary. And calm the heck down.