As it nears to Boxing Day and I anticipate Boxing Day sales (and even see some sales already starting), I’ve revisited the lists I wrote of all the things I want to buy.
Do most other people do this?
I have a list of all the clothes, home items, electronics, furniture, and other miscellaneous items I want to buy. I save some of them for the distant future, and put some of them in my near future box.
As I calculated how much it would cost for everything in my near future box, along with the holidays I’m going on soon and the lack of income I will make over the Christmas and New Year’s break, I started feeling anxiety about money, knowing I would dip dangerously low in my account and might have to draw from my savings account which I try to keep strictly off limits. This was coupled with the reminder that I recently drew from my savings account when I moved and my goal has been to replenish that amount and more besides that to pay off my student loans and save up more for my emergency fund. The sobering fact was it seemed it would be several months of working before that goal fell underway.
Then it occurred to me. Do I need to buy these things on my near future list? Or do I relegate them to the distant future list … the list of things lingering in a murky hazy vision of who I might become, that may or may not ever be realised. Case in point – me wearing knee high boots. Every year, the item is put on my list and every year I do not buy it. But I still dream about the me in knee high boots. She is gorgeous, sexy, sophisticated.
I suspect a theme. Maybe I’m using these items as a representation of who I want to be and the life I want to lead. In putting these items on a list to be fulfilled in future, the items become something for me to fixate on. I spend time pondering when to buy the item, what the item will look like, where I will get it from. I imagine walking the streets in my knee high boots. I imagine going to parties in a little black dress. I write songs and play beautiful music on a dream keyboard. I live a peaceful blissful life in my ideal home, which will be complete and idealistic once I have my fluffy white rug, succulents, mirror, mood lights, vintage dresser, and comfy dress.
When I put off buying these items or I cannot for practical reasons, it feels like I am putting off living the dream life I want and putting off being the ideal me. I feel, on the one hand, sadness that this future is delayed. On the other hand, I feel relief that I don’t have to face the pressures of having this life or, horror of horrors, the possibility that this life isn’t just within my grasp.
Therein lies the problem for me with materialism.
Sure, I want these items because they are pretty, they will be enjoyable and for many of them useful to have, and they will make me happy to buy them, own them, look at them, and use.
But at the same time, I use these items as a way to invest meaning in my life.
I use the anticipation of buying items as a way to feel content with my life and self despite feelings of inadequacy and restlessness and lack of purpose in my current state because I can imagine that once I buy these items, these feelings will be quelled.
But what is to say they will be?
Has owning something ever made you feel complete?
I always get this feeling when I am decorating my room. I have an image of what I wish it to be and I imagine how fulfilled I’ll feel when it is complete – what a complete joy it will be to live there. But I add some of the items on my list, and I feel the same even if it gives me a transient joy to see their beauty. It isn’t enough. And I tell myself it is because I suck at interior decoration and I just need more items to bring it all together. Nothing ever looks as good as in my imagination. But I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that this is all lying to myself. Up to a point, items can make me happy but after a basic level of cleanliness, comfort, and utility, they cannot transform my life, my mind, and my feelings about living in an environment.
When I have a keyboard in my apartment, I’m sure I will play it every day and write many songs and learn covers and advance in skills and record my own music and finally advance from this musical stalemate I’ve been in. When I have a keyboard. This longing for a keyboard keeps me excited and the price keeps it at bay. But what happens when I finally get the keyboard? Do I finally achieve my dreams or am I crushed by the overwhelming weight of expectation? My parents have a piano and I play it sometimes when I am there but do I spend all my spare minutes there playing it? Do I even play for thirty minutes ever day I spend there? No. Why would the magical keyboard of my future change that? So do I really want a keyboard? Do I want to be faced with the reality of my mediocrity, my lack of inspiration, and the drudgery of hard work?
That’s to say … this list of pretty little things weighs on my mind. It fills my mind with a bit of anxiety and stress as I imagine how I will get these items, how I will pay for them, and which item I will get. But if they were really valuable items that I needed and wanted, wouldn’t I get them? Wouldn’t I be actively working to get them? If they were just things I fancied, why should they be on the list? If I’m never going to actually get them, there is no point dreaming about them in my spare time. But why don’t I get these things I actually value and would use?
Maybe it’s because they don’t really represent things that would add value to my life. Maybe instead they represent the life I want and at the same time the life I fear. Until I can start living this life, they come with feelings of hope and promise but they end up in feelings of lack and a yearning for something new to anticipate.
From now, I’m going to try not to have a list of items at all. Instead, I have goals. Things I want to and places I want to go. And if the need or pressing desire for an item comes along, I can take it. But the honing in and obsession with the item has to go. The items will not give me fulfillment and the limiting of my goals to items keeps me from putting in the effort to achieve them and confronting the possibility that they could be beyond me. It keeps me in stagnation.
This Christmas, we head toward growth.