“Sometimes I just hate being a girl.” I used to have this thought from time to time, when I would blame my strong conviction or easily hurt feelings on my gender alone. Emotional connection is something that I have always felt very strongly and intensely. I am easily affected by a violent scene in a movie, hearing about someone going through a breakup or listening to someone talk about his or her dreams. As I’ve grown throughout college and discovered this thing called passion, I have been so confused and frustrated with the emotional distress that can come with deep connection to people, places, or concepts. I am a thinker who struggles to process my thoughts mixed with my emotions.
Fashion is something that evokes emotion from me. I love to see the way humans express identity with what they are putting on their bodies and showing the world about themselves that day. It is a way to send a creative message without even speaking a word. Looking through a beautifully made magazine relaxes me; my heart beats fast when I’m sifting through the racks at thrift stores; people watching (outfit watching) entertains me and I even give myself study breaks to scroll through the creative wonderland that is Pinterest. After all of this considered, I found myself going to school for fashion merchandising. At the beginning of college I started to get discouraged about my degree. I had been given this passion for mission work and social justices outside of school and just couldn’t see where my academic knowledge was ever going to partner with this passion. I kept pursuing both passions separately but struggling with the feelings of valuing materialism and image too much.
Sseko has reworked these discouraged emotions about the fashion and social justices gap for me. The second I heard the Sseko story I was sold. My mild obsession with the company and it’s message grew to a borderline annoying pursuit of an internship with them and a year and a half later, here I am, sitting in a coffee shop in Portland Oregon writing a blog post for this company that has shaped my thoughts and emotions in so many ways.
About a week into my time in Portland, once the adrenaline had rubbed off, my feelings went into “what have I done” mode and launched me into a summer of thought provoking conversations and emotional wrestling matches with my existing identity, image, contentment and view of community. The femininity blame game that my emotions played got quickly wrecked after joining the Sseko team. Sseko is a company based around the idea that women are incredibly capable, driven and brave beings that deserve equal opportunities for education and employment. When you spend all day working around these empowering people who are dreaming up strategies and products to ultimately provide opportunity for women across the globe to be empowered, it gets you thinking about your own identity.
In Portland my identity did a complete 180 from being known as a friend, daughter, fiancé, sorority girl, student, leader and coffee drinker to a Sseko intern from Missouri. I am still all of those things here except no one intimately knows me, and I don’t intimately know anyone. Community is a beautiful thing that I very much need and love as an individual but community is such a powerful thing for an identity. Who is Alex without her comforts of home and her people that know her? To be honest, at first I was an emotional wreck and not content with who I was or what I was doing. I was faced with the scary thought of having to be okay with myself and myself alone. Does being on my own mean I am not cool or fun or pretty or worthy? No it does not. In fact, being challenged in this way has been one of the best things for my identity. I am no longer defining myself by my emotional stability, my social life, my schedule, my status or my community. I’ve reached a place where a Friday night spent cooking, reading, writing letters, watching friends and eating chocolate alone can actually be fun!
As a woman, Sseko has empowered me to be confident in my emotions and my convictions. It’s okay to love controversial conversations and ask people hard questions and be challenged by the world. Sseko has pushed me to say “heck yes” to new experiences as much as possible. As a Sseko team member, Sseko has provided me with an incredible community of people who are ready and willing to encourage me, show me around the city, go to church with, eat entire bags of candy with and dissect the idea of emotions and femininity with. Through all of these crazy and hard but beautiful experiences I’ve realized that I am an emotional being- not because I am a girl, but because I am a human and we are created to feel and react and notice and be bothered and be encouraged and get excited and cry and get knots in our stomachs and blush. Vulnerability is beautiful and scary is good. I am able to embrace being a woman and love my humanity and the emotions that come with. Now when I blame things on my femininity, my inner dialogue is that “like a girl is a compliment.”