It’s Just Stuff…But That Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Want It

by Ginger on September 30, 2011

in Becoming Myself, Random

I am a used Honda in a land of new BMWs, Porsches, and Maseratis.

I am a Target and Ross in a land of Nordstroms and Barneys.

I am a Von’s in a land of Whole Foods.

I am a Merona in a land of Louboutins.

I am a renter in a land of owners.

It’s hard, sometimes, to not covet everything around me. I see people buying iPads and cars, homes and vacations, weekly pedicures and blow outs, new clothes and new shoes, and it gets harder to not WANT. All. The. Time. I have a long list of things I want to get someday (soon? never?), from the inexpensive to the out of this world pricey, but my day to day existence doesn’t allow for those purchases regularly. Which, fine. Most days, fine. They’re just things (or experiences), and I’m lucky (SO LUCKY I KNOW) to have the comfortable life I have. I have more discretionary income than a huge swath of the population, I understand this. But in the area I live? Well, let’s just say we’re living in a place out of our tax bracket. And I see those differences…a lot.

Some of that is due to bad choices of my younger days that I’m still paying for. Some of that is due to choices we’ve made as a family. Some of that is due to medical and dental stuff (I may love my kid beyond reason, but I don’t love the fact that I’m STILL paying for his delivery). Some of it is just due to the careers that my husband and I have chosen.

And like I said. Most days, it’s fine. Like I said, it’s just stuff or experiences, and I’m lucky and blessed to have a world filled with important things: love, laughter, books, music, work, education, family, etc.

But there are days I can’t help but look with jealousy at what I can’t have. Days when I wonder if I’ll ever, ever be anything more than a used Honda.

Cloud September 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm

This is a great post.

I don’t know if it helps or not, but what you’re experiencing is a well-known phenomenon. Studies have show than once you get to a certain reasonably comfortable income, your happiness depends more on your income relative to the people around you than on the absolute income.

Living in SoCal, that probably means that you will never feel like you have enough! Damn those multimillion dollar mansions in the parts of town we all want to visit….

Ginger October 3, 2011 at 11:38 pm

It does make sense, but living in this area…man, it’s tough. I wonder sometimes if we moved to a different area of town if we’d feel better, instead of feeling like intruders in the fancy part of town.

Jill Browning September 30, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I hear ya. It’s a daily struggle for me too.

shasta September 30, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I hear ya on wanting shiny, expensive things.

Except the house. We had one of those and it made life MUCH worse. The ease of renting is worth not having the ability to remodel or put in new floors.

Ginger October 3, 2011 at 11:40 pm

I gotta say, in my logical brain, I’m *grateful* that we don’t own a house. For a lot of reasons, actually. But it’s so conditioned in this country to say that owning a home is what you’re supposed to do, one of the steps of being a grownup, etc., it’s hard sometimes to pay attention to my logical side.

Brooke September 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Oh how I loathe the phrase “just stuff.” One of the reasons we live where we do is because our money goes further. But there are definitely days where I wish I lived in a more culturally relevant (and more politically like-minded) place. It’s a tough trade-off with no easy answer.

ms. lollygagger September 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I couldn’t have said this any better myself. I feel like all of my friends have accomplished way more than I ever will and have a lot more things. It’s sad, but I know I should be happy with what I have. Thanks for writing this!

The Sweetest September 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I feel this EVERY DAY. It is hard. And it seems the older I get, the harder it gets because my taste gets more and more expensive. I pretend-shop all the time. I find some awesome chair at CB2 or some pair of boots or a TV and put it on my Amazon wishlist. Most of that stuff never gets purchased, but it still sort of makes me feel like I am shopping, and that maybe, just maybe, i might have some of those things someday.

Ginger October 3, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Oh, my Amazon wishlist is EPIC. And I even leave the REALLY big ticket stuff off of that.

Shell Flower September 30, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Yep. Totally there. I even live in a hippie college town in the Pacific Northwest, but I still can’t afford my very reasonable life. I work 40+ hours a week and can’t pay my bills. I drive a 1987 Subaru, but mostly ride my bike because my car needs a valve job that is going to cost more than I paid for the car. My son needs his wisdom teeth out and even though I have dental insurance, it is going to max out our yearly benefit just for the freaking sedative , so yeah, I hear ya, girl. That being said, I do know that it is more satisfying to get something once and a while, or even to totally score at Goodwill compared to being so rich you just buy stuff all day. A lot of those people in the Laboutins, Masseratis, etc. are either bored and sad or up to their eyeballs in credit and it probably isn’t very satisfying for them. Stuff doesn’t = happiness. Just sayin’.

Ginger October 3, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I do agree–it’s satisfying to make your purchases MATTER, to make the things you buy something you’ve worked for and really want. Expect dental work. I hate having to pay for freaking dental work. That’s not satisfying AT ALL.

clara October 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Hondas last forever! They are not-ugly, totally reliable, totally functional, great on mileage cars. I knew a guy who put 300,000 kilometres on his honda civic and then gave it to his mom and she drove it for another five years! If a Maserati blows a gasket, that bitch isn’t gonna run right ever again. You’re gonna need a whole new Maserati!

I can’t believe you have to pay for your child’s delivery. That is just ridiculous. You Americans absolutely blow my mind with how hard you work and all the bills you pay and how you still have time to blog and be nice and stuff. This comparably-lazy Canadian salutes you.

Ginger October 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm

To be fair, I’m only still paying off the delivery because it was a c-section. But…yeah. It sucks. And that’s WITH my insurance!

kate October 1, 2011 at 11:35 pm

You are spot-on with this post. It’s hard in a consumer-based world to not get sucked in and feel this way. It’s a struggle for almost everyone – even if people don’t admit it. I worry about it on our front as we approach the birth of this new addition and the consideration to quit work. I know it will change our lives and it’s hard…

Elizabeth October 2, 2011 at 9:28 am

It’s easy to understand that you’re privileged, but that doesn’t make it easier to live simply when surrounded by extravagance. It’s easy enough in Texas to not want much, but I can’t even imagine how it would be in Southern California.

And, for what it’s worth, one of the happiest days of my life was the day we closed on SELLING our house. I hated owning it, and don’t plan to own another for a long, long time.

serial October 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I totally identify with that – not because I live somewhere with rich people around me so much as that I have the internet. Pinterest is basically a consumerist nightmare for me. All the pretty clothes that make me drool.

Ginger October 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Ooh, Pinterest is horrible for that. I try not to pin things that are crazy out of my budget for that reason. It won’t keep me from seeing the pretty, but at least then I’m not saving the crazy expensive stuff on my own pins.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks October 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

I hear ya. I think most middle-class people feel similarly to you. Even if they live amongst like-minded people. It’s natural to want what you can’t have.

On a similar note, Sweets and I have discussed where we’d like to live when Gavin is school-age. A number of communities that we’d choose based on excellent school systems are also communities where most residents make triple what our household makes. The question becomes whether the top-rated public school systems make up for having to raise Gavin in the kind of community where he will want for a lot of things we can’t afford to give him.

Ginger October 3, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’ve not even thought about that element (we’re lucky that we’re in a good school district, but we also realize we very well might move before J is in school), and I think there’s a lot to think about there.

Sheila October 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

I know the feeling. Mommy bloggers are actually my big envy source. Our income is average for where we live. But the people I meet online? Where do they all the money for the cool stuff they’re advertising? And they make it sound so great. I find myself feeling deprived that I don’t have the newest cool thing I read about on the internet … even though I never felt deprived before I heard about the new thing.

Though, it might help if you don’t say “I AM a used Honda.” Say, “I HAVE a used Honda. I AM a person of infinite value.” You are not what you have … in fact, I often think we’re better for the things we don’t have. We learn to use our brains to make do with what we have, and our souls to learn to value what’s really important.

Ginger October 4, 2011 at 12:02 am

Oh, the internet is the worst. Mommy bloggers (and fashion bloggers and home bloggers) all basically show the stuff we don’t know we wanted.

And you’re right, I”m not my stuff. Most of the time, I don’t feel that way either. But occasionally….well, occasionally I’m sitting in traffic in my car surrounded by cars I’ll never be able to afford and I just kinda can’t help but feel defined by that difference. I just need to remember better: I am not my things.

Melissa @ Completely Eclipsed October 4, 2011 at 6:28 pm

I’m right there with you girl. I know you’re supposed to be all, “I’m happy with what I have” “I’m grateful” blah blah blah, sometimes you just want stuff. I’m the only one of my friends who has heavy financial responsibilities (mortgage, student loans, baby etc) so they’ll go to the mall and drop $200 on a dress or $150 on a clutch. They rock their Louis Vuitton bags and I won’t even buy from Old Navy without a coupon. Sometimes the green eyed monster really gets the better of me.

Kim October 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

Ditto all of the other comments. I think most of us feel this way. When I lived in NYC, it was all consuming, as it was most of this year when I was unemployed. I’m sure there’s a clear connection between lacking something emotionally & thinking you’re lacking something materialistic. In addition to a new car, maybe one day I’ll also be able to afford therapy to figure this out.

Hang in there!

Jen October 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

Sometimes I have my moments where I feel that way, but I’m getting better about accepting what we have and where we are in life more than envying our friends who own homes here (as we are nearing a short sale point on my husband’s condo in another state, while we rent here). Buying a home is not going to be a reality for us for a LONG time and while I could try to find a job that doesn’t fulfill me but better pays the bills, I am happier living my life instead of envying everyone else around me. After all, owning a home doesn’t bring me happiness, spending time with my husband and doing what I want to be doing does. It took me awhile to come to the point of feeling satisfied.

My biggest problem is looking at the internet and seeing women who stay at home with their children and have the cutest clothes and take their kids to Gymboree for all of the latest, expensive classes AND then, seeing the DINKs going on jet-setting vacations all over the universe and forgetting that these are two separate lifestyles. I just see AWESOME AWESOME WANT all the time and forget that not everyone has everything when you look at the whole picture. I don’t know any of the mommy bloggers that went on crazy worldwide vacations last year, I just have to remind myself sometimes that no one really has it “all” and that I’m only seeing a picture (that they paint of their own choosing) of anyone’s given life at any given time.

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