Today, my professor was absent. I was thinking why did I pay all this tuition in the first place?
Jokes, but I did have a mildly productive day – we’re working on something called the Fall Arts Guide which is a compilation that comes out in September cataloguing all the cool things that are happening in Baltimore. All of today I emailed various galleries and theaters asking them if they could email us a list of their events. I think the most exciting thing that happened today was that I realized that the patten on the tables they have in the mini-cafeteria is tiny letters! How could I not have seen this before?! I mean, who’s decision was that? “When the reporters take a much-needed break from writing all day, let’s make them look at an alphabet soup jumble of teeny letters! They’ll love it!”
One time I thought I should get newspaper print bedspread because I thought it would be adorable but all it did was make me super stressed since I would be like “Ugh, I can’t look at this stupid layout anymore I’m gonna go take a na-AAHHH”
It didn’t help that the “headlines” were nonsense like “Mangoes invade paris drones”
I finished my assignment by about 12 p.m. today and spent the rest of the time clicking around the interwebz as we call it in my head. Website hopping is always a little dangerous when it comes to me because I have an EXTREMELY short attention span and I am also super impulsive. That bedspread up there? I didn’t even need it! I walked into Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy a lamp! And I didn’t need a lamp!
Last summer I was looking up recipes for turkey-burgers and ended up spending 3 hours trying to learn how to lucid dream. And this past semester I was procrastinating from my paper on women portrayed in advertising and started my 5-months-thus-far journey to live without processed sugar. So it didn’t really surprise me that after a good chunk a time today I went from reading about freelance journalists in Syria to a website about simplifying your life with less consumerism. About how things take up all our time, how we have a responsibility to know where our things come from, about how we treasure our things and then tire of them after a while and go out and just buy more stuff.
It really resonated with me. Because it made me confront something I had been uncomfortably suspecting for a while now. I am probably a shopoholic. Although I don’t have any debt (thank God) I have a really unhealthy relationship with things. Sure, everyone buys something to cheer them up now and then – but for some reason I feel that this is different. I’ll tell you a story.
When I was 17, I had to go to a podiatrist every Friday for a couple of months (because I had hurt my ankle walking 3 miles in high heels because my brain was lacking in any sort of functional good decision making). And I hated going there. The office smelled weird and I didn’t like the nurses there. I felt bad for myself every time I had to go. So I would stop in a little jewelry shop next door called You and I. They had sweet necklaces with little kooky charms. Every time I made it through an appointment I would stop in the store. I deserved it. If the store was closed or I had to hurry home after the doctor’s I felt anxious and cheated. I needed a necklace. Recently, I found one of those trinkets in my bedroom. The charm was a little copper book that opened, the cover said “May Angels Guard Us As We Sleep” while the inside said “Til Morning Light Appears.” I stared at it remembering how happy I had been when I bought it and then tossed it back into the drawer with other forgotten pieces. It meant nothing.
Shopping to me is love. I shop with my mother – we hit outlets, spending all day trying on clothing and talking about our lives. I shop with my sister – heading out to Old Navy or Target when we got bored. I shop with my best friends – spending our money at the mall on this season’s maxi dresses and sales racks. I go to the Rugged at University of Maryland when I get a bad grade, when I get a good grade, when no one wants to hang out, when I’m waiting for a friend. Buying clothing, shoes, and jewelry validates who I am. Is it society that convinces me that women are defined by their appearance or do I genuinely enjoy going from store to store, savoring the thrill of finding something in my size?
I try to convince myself that I’m just fashionable! I *like* fashion, it’s not different than being an art collector and spending money on art! And that would be true if I spent real money on tailored pieces or one of a kind creations. But they’re all inexpensive clothing that I don’t give two thoughts about who made it, where it came from, do I even need it? The average American spends $121 on clothing every month.
I have gotten so used to setting my sights on something I need to have right this second (black wedge sneakers, galaxy leggings, more bow headbands) and then feeling so guilty and stupid afterwards that it’s spilled into things that are not monetary. My sense of satisfaction with something wears off so quickly. I think I need to start a website (and then lose interest the moment I set it all up) I need to get in shape (and then stuff the sneakers to the back of the closet once I buy them). No one makes me stick to things, ideas or goals and so I don’t discipline myself to go through with things once I have them in my possession.
Right now I’m still on the cusp of being an adult. I haven’t committed to anything yet that someone could hold me to, and would have real consequences if I backed out of. I don’t have a lease that I pay for. I don’t have a job that I can’t just quit because the boss is annoying and I’ll just get another one at a different kiosk at the student union. Marriage terrifies me, you are literally buying someone, signing a contract. What happens when that same high wears off?
But enough is enough. I’m tired of getting satisfaction from shoes. From thinking “Oh, if I just had this black dress, I’d be done. Everything would be perfect. I’d be happy.” I don’t want to organize or de-clutter. I want to take responsibility for my things. I don’t want to buy things anymore to make me happy when I’m sad or as a reward when I’m happy. I want to know that people weren’t hurt in the process of making the t-shirt I haphazardly stuff into drawers and then neglectfully leave at the gym. I want to start off my self-supporting life knowing that I can survive without relying on surplus items controlling me.
The best things in life are not only free, but the line is shorter. ~Robert Brault
So I officially pledge starting today that I won’t needlessly buy anything new for a year. I will borrow or DIY. But I have to write this here and put it out there so others will hold me responsible. I need to find my happiness somewhere else – I want to be happy with what I have. I need to start taking responsibility.
I hope my professor comes back tomorrow so I don’t start clicking around and be more educated.