In the past two decades with the explosion of the internet and the introduction of social media, we have all been able to share our lives with the world with a touch of a button. As various social media platforms took hold on mainstream society, one thing has become evident; we are obsessed with displaying our wealth and the coveting of things. Spend a few minutes on any social media platform and you will see photos of new vehicles, homes, jewelry, fashion, and even cosmetics being made the center of the post, not to mention all the marketing targeted by your view history. In defense, many are simply sharing their joy of obtaining something that they have worked hard for, which has no shame and others are flaunting for “clout.” Now multiply this one person’s video exponentially and your feed on social media is swarmed with the joy of owning “things.”
I am a fan of social media and have an account on most platforms. The newest rave is TikTok and I, too, love to watch these short snippets that allow us into other peoples’ lives. Some are ingenious, funny, moving, and at times cringeworthy. That is the best thing about TikTok, as you swipe, you have no idea what you are going to lay your eyes onto. I follow over a hundred different contributors because I do love their content and find some type of value or entertainment in their videos. Unfortunately, I see a category of contributors who center their content on expensive fashion, driving high end automobiles, and attempting to displaying a life that is centered around owning things.
Let me be honest, there is no shade given to anyone who has financial wealth, that is something we all strive for – financial independence. What I do have issue with is the message we are sending to others with the bombardment of perceived wealth – especially younger generations. Wealth can come in all forms, but when we are depicting happiness bound to owning expensive material items, rather than being financially smart and intrinsically happy, then that’s where it gets a little disturbing for me.
I once lived a life with nice cars, a beautiful home, and what appeared to be the perfect all-American dream by the time I was thirty. The truth is, at that time, I would have, and eventually did, give it all up to be happy. Without going into too much detail on my personal life as I want to protect those who were directly involved or affected by these events in my life, I will say that all the pretty things around me could not fix what was broken.
What did bring me happiness, finding my motivation and inspiration – my connection with my loved ones and the world around me. As I was recovering from cancer and a divorce, I did not care one bit about where I lived, what car I was driving, or about the name brand clothing I was wearing. None of these items could repair a broken marriage or heal my cancer. All those pretty things that I once owned, were now being legally divided and disputed over which was doing nothing but bringing on more stress and heartache. Sometimes you must walk away from it all, and that I did.
Walking away and starting over was the hardest thing I have done thus far. As scary as it was, it was also a bit exhilarating. I could start over. I had been in survival mode for so long that it was nice to have some control over my life and to focus on what would make me happy. I found that what brought me joy was simple; finding and establishing my self-awareness and identity, continuing to learn, returning to writing, traveling, and creating. To my surprise, none of these things required owning expensive things. Yes, some require money, but not an exorbitant amount of wealth.
Once I came to the realization that I did not need all this “stuff” and no longer cared about other opinions, it was easy to let it all go. I spend when I must and save when I can. I am frugal on the most part, yet I still enjoy the finer things in life. The difference now is that it is not a need, just an occasional luxury. I currently write on a computer I bought in 2016, I drive a new but frugal, gas efficient vehicle. I rent a modest condo until I can purchase my first home on my own, and I am able to take small trips yearly. I like to spend my money on experiences that I will remember for a lifetime rather than things that will eventually lose their value or luster. With my youngest soon heading off to college, I am planning my first solo vacation in 2021. As I write this, excitement fills my core. An enormous difference from a decade ago.
Honestly, I have to say I am the happiest I have been in a decade. My adult children are the loves of my life, my parents are my best friends, and my fur-babies are my buddies. Although I do not own expensive things, I really do not feel the need to either. That desire that I once had for shiny new things is no longer a part of me. Perhaps it was the cancer, the divorce, or just the realization happiness comes from within. I feel a bit freer, lighter and I am no longer attached to any societal standards or competition. I am just me and that feels fabulous. Beautiful things often bring joy in the moment and can be fun and exciting, but most importantly, don’t lose focus on what is important – you. Choose to be happy with or without all the shiny, new things.
© Honestly by Ellen Good 2020
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