Something Given Something Taken For Granted

“It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.” -Aesop

It’s cosplay season for me and for many of my friends. Well, truth be told cosplay season never really ends. It picks up and slows. We decide to work harder in the winter when working outside with spray paint is a little more bearable, we shelf bigger builds for the summer when staying inside is absolutely mandatory. It never ends. But as I have convention after convention lining up and my ambitions with my costumes grow I have found that I am not only getting rather impatient with my desires for costumes and accessories, I’m being downright terrible about it.

I decided on two costumes for sure. Castiel from Supernatural and The Riddler from days of old Batman fame. The majority of the pieces for these outfits I either had on hand or had picked up at a local thrift store.

20141116_184706

20141117_190808

Now, a little known cosplayer pro tip: WE LOVE THRIFT STORES. They are cheap and wonderfully organized wonderlands for fabric, accessories and clothing pieces that to the hands of someone making a costume are going to be cut into pieces, dyed, tied and transformed. It allows us as cosplayers to spend more on bigger items (more foam board, please.) and not have to worry about breaking the bank on something simple like a men’s button down shirt that can run excessively high at most mass retailers. Thrift stores for cosplayers and anyone who makes costumes (theater people, rejoice) are truly a godsend.

But as cosplayers and costumers descend upon local thrift stores to browse the aisles for hidden treasure (so far my favorite find is the hunter green jacket I’m using for my Riddler cosplay) we start to lose the meaning of why these institutions exist. They are there to help those in need get the clothes they need to survive the elements but also to impress at a job interview or at any other chance they have to improve their situation. They exist for those who cannot afford a department store. They are there for those in need. They are not created for cheap hipsters like me who just don’t want to pay full value for a dress or vest.

I didn’t really grasp this concept until recently. I decided hubristically to add a third costume to my already rather lofty line-up and with my back pressed against a wall, I had decided somehow how that I wanted this costume which to me in theory should be easy to pull together, done by Friday for a convention Saturday. This is a choice I made Monday afternoon.

Challenge accepted.

I had 2 of the 4 pieces down but there was still half of the clothing pieces and not to mention accessories that I needed to add to finish this outfit successfully.

To the Goodwill Store.

It was a win-win situation. There is a Goodwill Store 10 minutes away from my job. I had clothes that I needed to donate anyways. What was stopping me from popping by during my lunch and picking up the remaining two pieces? Nothing! So I did.

I made the trek with bag of clothing donations in hand and stepped in to what has to be the nicest Goodwill Store I have ever seen. (Seriously. The Goodwill Store in downtown San Antonio is absolutely amazing.) I asked one of the retail associates where I could drop off my donation and was quickly whisked away to the back for processing. While I waited for my tote to return I noticed the magnitude of this place. A cafe’, antiques, and more importantly an opportunity for honest work for good people that more than deserve it. The entire time I was there I heard over and over again “Thank you for supporting our mission.” which didn’t stick the first 5 times I heard it as a frantically paced through the aisles looking for specific pieces and specific sizes. It wasn’t until I was about to be very short with the kindest woman in the store that I realized exactly what an ungrateful little troll I must have looked like.

It would be no trouble for me to go pick an item up off of the rack at another store. I just didn’t. And how very dare I take the opportunity away for someone else who could benefit so much more from the clothing at a store like this?

I took the piece I had my eye on and left feeling content in having part of my costume shopping list completed but also finally aware of what it meant. “Thank you for supporting our mission.” It was about empowerment. Helping others. It wasn’t about filling the needs of one costume-crazy girl. I stomached my ambitions, decided that just because the costume wouldn’t be done by week’s end doesn’t mean by any means that I failed it just means it isn’t going to be ready now. And that’s okay. I have time.

I’m by no means saying don’t shop at thrift stores. They’re great for numerous things. A lot of my craft projects begin with bargain bins and thrift store treasures. Just understand that it’s a give and take. I’ll be more mindful the next time I go to raid the local Salvation Army for ironic sweaters. Donate when you can, clothing or monetary if at all possible.

It has changed how I approach these types of situations. I had become very comfortable going to the thrift stores that seem to cater more to the hipster clientele, the ones with 10 dollar wedding dresses that they know are to be cut in half, dyed black and turned into a stunning Gothic Lolita outfit. It’s a good cosplayer practice to have 1 or 2 locations that are favorites. They are your go-to locations. The ones that will never let you down, will always have something in your size and that you can call at the drop of a hat. And those are lovely. Keep them and keep them close to your heart. And fold up the clothes when you are done. The retail associates at these places are the most fantastic people in the entire world.

Happy cosplay and costume work, friends.

Just Look Up

“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts.”- Rita Mae Brown

I’m the kind of person that likes having maps. I’m a rather insecure driver and a very insecure pedestrian. I’m the kind of person that will use the GPS when driving home. There’s no such thing as a ‘secure’ route to me. I find a great deal of security in knowing the route, the way, the path even when in my heart of hearts I know it myself.

A few days ago, I was heading back to my alma mater for a volunteering event. I know the area around my school well, and of course, I know the address to my university nearly just as well as I know my address to my apartment or to the family’s home. I know the area, I moved to the area for the very reason that this is the part of town that I understand the most. There was really only one difference: I was taking a different bus route.

San Antonio has a lovely bus system and because I live on a bus line, the city truly is my oyster. I can get just about anywhere and I can get there relatively quickly, I’m really quite lucky. But with being on a busy bus line meant options. There’s plenty of ways to get to the same place and with options often comes doubt.

I selected the route best for me, though one I had never personally travelled. I guessed, second guessed, wrote directions down, saved the map to my phone all to get to a place that my heart knew by memory. So I began as the sun just barely started to lift through the thick clouds of fog and mist to the familiar part of my journey. That was the easy part.

I then got to the unfamiliar part of my journey and even though I knew ‘where’ I was I didn’t know how to get there. I scrambled around looking for the proper bus stop. This side of the street, the other side? East-bound, towards the transit center? I really was in a moment in a small tailspin. I didn’t trust my gut enough to just calm down and figure out where I was and gather my thoughts. Finally, after fiddling around with the map on my phone and the compass (yes, I had to break out a compass for this one.) I did something that seemed all too logical…

I looked up.

20141115_072251

I realized that my destination was just in front of me and I would have saved a lot of time and a lot of energy if I had just looked up. And there in the distance was the shining, misty visage of my Alma Mater (It was in that moment that I finally started to understand why we call these places Alma Maters. It really did feel like I was coming home.)

I trudged on the nearly mile  to my alma mater, the bus I was supposed to be on zipped by and I continued on foot. It felt amazing, I just kept walking. Now, mind you walking in near freezing temperatures in the early parts of the morning wasn’t the smartest idea but it felt great. I had to learn to trust my gut and I began to wonder why I didn’t listen to my instincts sooner? I’ve always been told that I have a good head on my shoulders and that my instincts often lead me to positive things (many friends think I’m almost a little psychic when it comes to this.) so why didn’t I just listen when the goal was so clearly in front of me?

As a 90s kid, I realized that I was afraid of my instincts mostly because we saw it fail our parents. So many events struck our generation that just defied all logic and reason: even when you had it all together, the best plan, the best process, the steps all counted out things seemed to still go wrong. We saw instinct fail our parents, our country and our generation. Coupled with that, we gained access to fantastic technology that we never had before. We found security in maps, strength in formulas and unity in science. Because when all else failed, we had that. It was easier to trust a map than our eyes. It was easier to trust an algorithm because it can’t fail. It was easier to trust science rather than emotion. And even when technology wasn’t the answer, we found security in the atlas, the encyclopedia, in periodicals: they were infallible; our instincts weren’t.

I’m not saying we should throw out our phones and just start navigating by what’s in our hearts and the stars above I rather like having a map on my phone but we should be more open to listening to the what our hearts have to say. They aren’t often wrong, and if they are…we learn and grow from it. Just always have a back up plan, just in case.