"Once we have completely eradicated our delusions it will be utterly impossible for us to experience unpeaceful states of mind." Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Stuff + Things

The concept of decision-making is something that I have written about before, and think about often. Some people live their whole lives working in the same industry, living in the same city, with the same partner and this works for them. Personally, I don't see that working very well for me because I like change too much - I crave it actually, and because I make a point of researching all of my options, I know that there are so many out there; it sort of seems like a waste not to exhaust them.

I'm currently facing a major decision in my life, which is forcing me to evaluate what my priorities are. Subsequently, this has me analyzing what other people value in their life and what is making them happy. Lately I've been obsessed with the notion of building a life, and not just living one. What this means to me, is consciously considering how I want to spend my time. I can't help but notice that the majority of people I'm surrounded with go through the "normal" life stages of having full time, 9-5/40 hour/week jobs, buying lots of materialistic shit like cars, TV's, gadgets, furniture, decorations and houses.. usually on credit because they can't actually afford the items at the time they desire them, and then becoming slaves to their jobs which they are not truly passionate about, so that they can pay off the items, which really haven't made them all that happy in the end anyway. Their autonomy is lost and they spend their life waiting to have the time and money to really do the things they want to do. The thing is though, that this behaviour is common and therefore individuals do not really consider that they are simply conforming to the societal norms, instead of figuring out a way to live without debt and therefore without the added stress and responsibility of paying for their life; living outside of their means and always trying to play catch-up.

(From Hyperbole and a Half blog - so funny!) 

I recently took a trip to Seattle and ended up wandering into Nordstrom Rack - the discount version of the department store. In a past life, I feel like I would have been in retail heaven with amazing bargains left and right. Only this weekend, I was actually quite disgusted. There were racks and racks of clothes and products and so many women riffling through them on a mission! I actually felt sad for them - all of these women were being fuelled by the idea that these clothes were gong to make them look and feel good, but at what expense? I'm sure some of them could actually afford the items they were loading into their shopping carts, but what about the majority of the women who couldn't? And for the ones that could afford the items, is that really what they wanted to spend their hard earned money on? I used to love shopping because it was a fun experience - very stimulating, a good little workout walking from store to store, a fun outing with some girlfriends… but all I can think of now is that it is a complete waste of time and money! I prefer a discount because I know how many hours I have to work to earn the money I make, and to me that time is valuable. But the stores that offer discounted clothes are certainly not manufacturing their clothes in an ethical way - I know this! And to contrast, the boutique stores offering clothing made in the USA and Canada are usually priced way above what I'm willing to pay for a piece of clothing, unless I know that the quality will last for years, making the items worth it after all.

This mindset of mine is relatively new, as even though I've always valued my time and therefore my money enough to enjoy a discount, I've also enjoyed assessing fashion choices and considering the way  people present themselves through clothes. From the TLC show "What Not to Wear", I remember host Clinton Kelly stating that he taught the guests on the show about aligning their inside with their outside; presenting to the world the person you are.  It seems simple enough, but this could be taken so many different directions, from where the clothes are made, to colours, textures, style, fit etc. When you see someone wearing a designer label, how do you judge them? Similarly, when you see someone wearing a brand from a discount store like Walmart, what do you think about them? Maybe what you assume about them is a reflection about how you think about yourself? Since I enjoy fashion, I am aware of various brands and labels, therefore they jump out at me probably a lot more than someone who has no knowledge of fashion brands, because they simply couldn't care less.

The other thing to consider about going into debt to purchase "stuff" is that the large corporations are gaining power at your expense! You end up working harder and stressing more, while the multimillion dollar companies sit back and collect their profits - widening the wealth gap. There are so many starving and poor people that are actually suffering, while you're contemplating the purchase of yet another handbag or new watch. This really upsets me, but I'm not really sure what to do about it. I don't think working, only to give your money away to those less educated or less fortunate than you is the answer, but certainly trying to level the playing field is a step in the right direction?

The technological advancements this world has experienced are undeniably remarkable, but the more I really consider how the world works, the more I wish I was living in a simpler era - less stuff with less pollution and more harmony with the earth. But of course, time travelling is not possible, so what is there to do? All of the possessions that people are accustomed to wanting and convincing themselves that they need, is draining the world of its precious resources. This is a fact, and yet why are we still living the same way we have been for years? Is this something that other people even consider, or am I all alone in my thought process? Sure, people are doing what they can to recycle and reuse, but what about really focusing on reducing??

If you identify with the person I describe, how do you feel about this? Are you happy with your life the way it is? If not, are you living that way simply because it feels natural and it's the way "everyone" lives, so it must be the "right" way? I ask these questions not to point fingers or to criticize, but as a cathartic process of figuring out how I personally am going to design my life. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of designing their life exactly the way the want, without abandoning their responsibilities, but the less dependents you have, the more freedom you can exercise - so how does that play out for you?