Let me set a familiar scene for you.
It’s 4 p.m. on a Sunday. You’ve happily wasted the morning, flipping through Fixer Upper re-runs, wondering if you too could someday live in a farm in Waco, Texas (you decide yes, but are still unsure if you could care for goats — you will return to this thought later). You were going to work out, but the only clean workout clothes are those yoga pants you really hate, so you decide to put it off until tomorrow. And suddenly it hits you, a natural instinct so powerful that you’re completely sure you need to turn off the TV and get in your car immediately, Chip & JoJo be damned. You know, deep in your soul, one thing and one thing only: You have to go to Target.
You step inside those brightly lit, red-and-white accented halls and you feel relaxed, tranquil even. Like someone happily splashing in the ocean, unaware that they’re about to be pulled into a strong and ultimately deadly rip current, you both have no idea what’s about to hit you and are all too familiar with the danger. Fifteen minutes later, you have given in to the sweet, sweet surrender that is putting whatever item you pass into your cart with wild abandon. You know you’re being dragged out to sea to drown, so to speak, but you also know better than to fight what is happening. So you let yourself grab that pair of lace-up, denim wedges. “Perfect for the 4th of July, and literally no other occasion in my life ever,” you think, as you plop the shoes in your cart. “Oh look, a waffle iron! Necessary for prepping for my appearance on Chopped,” you tell yourself (you are not prepping for an appearance on Chopped; you don’t eat waffles). You toss in four more yoga pants into your cart to inspire you to work out. You don’t need to try them on, you tell yourself. You have, of course, totally forgotten that those other yoga pants you hate were also from Target, and you also didn’t try them on (hence why you hate them). You don’t care. It just feels right to have them in your cart.
Suddenly, you are an aspiring chef, a workout guru, someone who wears denim wedges. You are transforming your entire life before you very own eyes. That little red cart, the bottom of which is covered in a thin layer of discarded popcorn kernels and those papers that soft pretzels come in, remnants of warriors before you, is your chariot to a new you. You are loving every second of it. To everyone else, you are choosing utterly unnecessary items like a decorative tiny gold elephant, a bath mat that says “Hello, Beautiful,” or a giant inflatable pizza float for the pool you do not have. To you, you are creating the apartment of your dreams — one that will give you the confidence to write that novel, or take that scary workout class with ‘bootcamp’ in the title that makes everyone cry. You are creating a tiny moment to feel empowered every time you step out of the shower. You are planning out content for your dream Instagram shot in which people will double tap your photo and think, “Why would someone get a giant inflatable pool float without actually having a pool?” and then think, “OK, but this is still really cute.” Even if you don’t buy everything in your cart in the end, the process of finding and choosing items is strangely therapeutic. Writing that novel might not seem doable right now, but picking out a new journal to inspire you — and put you on the path to something big — probably does.
Granted, this is Target’s goal, of course. It’s a multi-million dollar (billion dollar?) business. And no, a tiny decorative gold elephant is never going to transform your life. Neither are the wedges. Or the pizza float. Or the waffle iron. Or the bath mat. They’re just not. And it would be irresponsible to say that buying things is ever going to be a substitute for doing the real down-in-the-dirt work when it comes to transforming your life into whatever you want it to be. It just doesn’t work that way. And I’m certainly not trying to encourage you to go burn your hard-earned cash on things designed to make you feel like you need them to become better. You’re just fine the way you are. But you probably know all of that, too.
No one picks up something at Target and truly believes they’re buying it because that item alone is going to transform their life. That waffle maker isn’t going to revolutionize how you think. Those yoga pants aren’t going to single-handedly rebuild your self-esteem. The pizza float, though magnificent, is not going to make you feel better when you wake up in the morning. You have to do the work yourself. Always. But sometimes Target is the little boost that makes doing that work seem a little more possible. A little more in your control when a whole lot of things are not.
Yes, waxing poetic about a literal mega-store is weird. But I would be lying if I said anything other than that I love Target. I just do. Sure, it’s basic and cliché. And yes, it knows exactly what it’s doing; it will absolutely take my money from me year after year and be glad doing it. But I don’t really mind all of that. Any version of retail therapy is a privilege, of course, but what makes Target great in my mind doesn’t have to do so much with the actual buying of things as it does with the fact that it’s a place that doesn’t make you feel like you owe it something. Because sometimes what you need in life is to go somewhere that will let you stuff $1 food court-style popcorn in your face while you pick out 12 pairs of new pajamas, or talk for a couple hours with your friend while you walk through the aisles and buy groceries and try on lace-up denim wedges for fun. Somewhere that isn’t pretentious, or intimidating, or judgmental — somewhere that has exactly what you need, even if you don’t need it at all.
(Also this literally is not an ad. I just like Target. Truly.)