I have been cleaning out my closet for the better part of two months -– selling things online, giving things away, throwing out items that refuse to consciously uncouple from the wine stain I gave them at a Christmas party in 2011. I’m cleaning out my closet for several reasons, the primary reason being that after five years of living in Seoul, I am finally moving back to the United States.
The amount of clothing I had amassed wasn’t a problem until I realized:
A) Most airlines charge for a second piece of luggage now, even on international flights that cost almost $2,000. Just another asshole move from the asshole air travel industry. Assholes.
B) Boxes jammed with ankle booties and woolly capes are heavy to carry to the post office and very expensive to ship.
C) I don’t yet have an apartment in the states, but I imagine that it will not be large enough to contend with my wardrobe without leaving my boyfriend Dan’s wardrobe out on the balcony to fend for itself.
Discarding clothes has revealed some pretty brutal realities, including the fact that I have wasted a lot, and I mean A LOT, of money on clothes. During the last five years, I’ve made a lot of money teaching and writing. Easier, faster money than I will probably ever make again in my life. And I spent it as fast as I made it. I love clothes, and Seoul loves women who love clothes. I was also in the midst of losing weight, so I even bought things that didn’t exactly fit me, certain that with ALL MY EXERCISES and ALL MY MONEY, eventually the investment would be worth it.
When I was in the eye of my spend-storm I bought my very first fatkini from the wonderful Monif C. I ordered her Sao Paulo high-waisted black-and-white bikini in a size 16 without giving it a second thought, so eager to spend and look like a babe that I barely noticed the “Order a size up” disclaimer on the website. It cost nearly $160 (somewhere, my mom reads this in disbelief and says "Oh my GOD, Amanda"). No expense was spared when it came to making my wardrobe exactly how I wanted it to be, because why not, I work really hard and I’m making good money. I deserve ALL THE THINGS. When the bikini arrived, I took a picture of myself in it and posted it on social media. As one should.
My bubble of excess rationalized by my delusions of entitlement quickly came to a festering head in November of this year, when a visa problem got me fired from a job that I didn’t even have the chance to start. A high-paying job that I had worked hard to get. A job that was somewhat related to my “field” (look, writing textbook passages about rainbows is still writing, OKAY). A job whose paychecks I was already mentally allotting for the River Island spring/summer collection.
Suddenly, there I was, with no more real money coming in, surrounded by ill-fitting clothes whose price tags mocked me. The money I’d spent on my wardrobe now seemed excessive compared to the little I’d saved, and the fact that it didn’t even fit made me feel even more ashamed.
Things went from bad to worse. Unable to secure a visa for a full-time job but unwilling to leave Korea and spend seven months apart from my guy, I took on a variety of part-time side hustles, things that kept me busy and making some money, but nowhere near as much as I was used to. In my downtime, I confronted my newfound sort-of-employment head-on by sitting around, eating my feelings, and watching consecutive episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” on Netflix. Depression nudged its way in by the time Randy had sold his fifth Pnina Tournai gown. Slowly, I gained back all the weight I had lost the previous year.
Today, a year after I bought it, I am too fat for my fatkini.
When I tried it on this morning, I could barely get it over my hips. When I finally did wrestle my way in, my body was being forcibly squeezed out of its holes. I could hardly breathe. Alone in my closet, surrounded by unsold and ungifted clothes, clothes that I had bought with hard-earned money that was now gone, clothes that didn’t even fit me, my body strangled in a beautiful, expensive swimsuit that I could no longer afford or fit into, I had a moment.
It was not pretty.
In that dark moment, I felt that after spending five years in one place, I was starting a new chapter in a worse position than I had begun the previous one: Unemployed, uncertain about the future, bank account still questionable, weight higher than it had been in a year, my beautiful clothes being forced out of my closet because I either couldn’t afford to keep them or couldn’t get them on.
“This wasn’t the way that it was supposed to be,” I thought to myself. “When leaving a chapter of life to begin another, you are supposed to be invigorated, fresh, renewed! Not lying on your closet floor, crying and hyperventilating because your body is bursting out of fabulous nylon tubes! I have FAILED.”
I sat there on the floor for a while, sniffling and feeling sorry for myself. Once again, I was succumbing to the delusion of my own entitlement. Only this time it was the entitlement to feel like the world had somehow wronged me, despite the fact that my position was determined by my own decisions, my own mistakes, my own having overlooked the things that make me truly happy.
I got up, peeled off the swimsuit, and made a list of things that needed to get done, sold, or given away. I exercised. I sat on my roof with a coffee, looking out from my perch above central Seoul, realizing how much I was going to miss this place.
I wrote a note to myself, explaining that I can’t change things that have already happened, but I can use what I’ve learned from them in the future. I reminded myself that most of the “hardships” I have endured over the past year have been a result of my own choices, and that I will make different ones in the future.
Finally, I told myself that although you’ll want the chapters of your life to begin and end in a certain way, they rarely (if ever) do. It’s okay for endings and beginnings to be messy, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to realize that you’ve been a bonehead with money, it’s okay to gain weight, and it’s okay to be too fat for your fatkini. It’s okay to be in any of those places, as long as you’re willing to come to terms with how you got there.
I put the fatkini up for sale this afternoon. Those of you who have already gotten-it-the-hell together: Inquire within.