Secondhand or Preloved?
Take a closer look.
A friend recently shared that she would never buy a preloved item, be it a piece of clothing, accessory or even vintage furniture.
“It’s just… secondhand. I don’t know where it’s been, who its previous owner is — maybe he’s even deceased! And anyway, there’s definitely some damage done to it.”
“You know they do clean out these things and fix them up right?”
“Yes I know, they are in so-called ‘mint’ condition. But just because they’ve got a beautiful label — “preloved” — tagged on them, it doesn’t change their status that someone else didn’t want them anymore.”
Because I happen to enjoy shopping for preloved, refurbished items, especially lovingly curated vintage-y and kitschy ones.
And because truth is, I’m a preloved product myself.
And very likely, so are you.
Unless we’ve been living under a rock (and hey, no judgement here because if the hermit-lifestyle is a choice and solitude is what rocks your world, then hibernate away), most of us would’ve experienced a modicum or two of love. Any kind of love.
And had experienced an ending of love. Any kind of ending. You know yours acutely, just as I know mine.
We know what it means to be well-worn, maybe emotionally roughed up, dented in certain places and for some of us, wholly ravaged through and through on the inside.
You know what most of us eventually do after such occurrences — post-drinking binges, post-contributing to the world’s flood of tears, post-slash-and-burn rampages, or just post-withdrawal from all things social and social media?
As strangely as the fact that the world does go on with or without our participation, eventually, somehow, we do successfully get ourselves cleaned up and properly polished, we get knocked back into shape so much so that we manage to get back on our feet, hold our head up high to face the world again and even to strut our stuff.
Most miraculously of all, somehow, we manage to pry open that closed heart inside just enough for the next chapter of our lives to begin its beat.
I don’t know if we ever make a full return to ‘mint condition’ but isn’t our history that’s equally filled with experience, encounters and revelations as well as mistakes, regrets and even sorrows, what enriches our lives and emboldens us to go on?
(And doesn’t that last vestige of a small stain, a chip off our beings, or that spot of discolouration – reminders of whence this preloved entity came from, what history has shaped us and just how we got where we are – well, doesn’t that all just make us more endearing?)
Yes, I am preloved.
Once, I had understood that to mean I’m no longer loved. That I’m secondhand. Used. Ought to come at a discount from a thrift shop.
I was devastated, of course, to think that love continually leaves me and that I would not be loved anymore.
I was angry. Heartbroken. Bitter. Angsty.
On a whim and fancy, or just to be extravagant and self-indulgent, I bought myself an expensive vintage embroidered purse. For a while, it contained mostly packs of tissues for when I had to randomly express my sorrow especially on long commutes with too much space for painful musings.
That purse went everywhere with me and well, wherever it came from, I’m sure it had seen better days before beginning its adventures with me.
With me, it was unwittingly used as a weapon to bruise a boy’s eye, it got frothy ice cold beer spilled on its fine woven threads, it was left behind after my fifth wedding anniversary dinner, and it was even used to carry undignified items like my children’s pacifiers.
But, you see:
That purse made me a new friend whose son’s eye I had injured.
That purse helped kickoff the first conversation with a date, over beer of course.
Five years later, it sparked off a race filled with so much laughter and happiness between my husband and I to see who ran the fastest back to the restaurant to retrieve my poor purse.
It made me feel beautiful at a time when my life was about diapers and pacifiers.
And yes, someday, I will pass it on, when I’m finally too old to require a purse, when my daughter wants it, or when I’m dead and gone.
Then, it would be labelled “preloved” again. Might cost less then.
Doesn’t make it worth less though.
Somedays, especially when particular songs come on, I reach inwardly for a ‘pause’ button to recall old memories, both the good and the bad, that at some point in my life had caused me tremendous joy and also great suffering when those episodes were over.
On many nights, I dream about old loves in forms that my creative mind engineers to fit my fancies.
There is much that I wish had turned out differently and just as much that I wouldn’t change in my personal history at all.
I cherish it all. And so should you.
Because truly, who would we be today if not for what we had endured and survived?
So I write about old wounds that I still vividly remember and those come out in the love stories I tell. I write about love gone wrong and love lost.
I remember days gone by when I was someone’s prized possession and all too easily wore my worth on my sleeve. I felt expensive because I was valued.
Then of course I remember the bitter times when I was no longer cherished and how I had believed I must not be worthy enough to hold onto. I was left behind.
You would remember yours too.
That hardly means we’re discards from a thrift shop.
I want to tell my friend, that maybe all this just means that there is no fixed limit to the number of times we can encounter love in all its ferociousness. We can feel belonging with more than one. We can value ourselves more with one and less with another… until such time comes when we learn to value ourselves for what we are truly worth.
Perhaps the difference also lies in the label we put on ourselves. We’re not “secondhand”. We do not belong in a thrift shop. We’re worth more than the price tag on us.
We are preloved and perfect.
We are preloved and precious.
We are preloved and priceless.
Most of all, we ought to be preloved and proud.
I did not always believe or see the value of being preloved. It takes age to appreciate age and enough years to understand the value in them. Today, I am preloved and loved — and I now know being preloved precedes finding real love. Adventures of a lifetime await.
This post was first published on P.S. I Love You.