I pull into the outdoor shopping mall to meet my friend for lunch. I park my 18 year old van with the sheet metal patched over a formerly rusty hole next to some shiny new SUV I don’t take the time to recognize. I walk inside the restaurant and see the leggings, boots, and designer handbags adorning the women in line. I’m swimming through a crowded sea of perfume and name brands and chai tea. I spot some possibly vegan yogis who look gorgeous despite their recent workout.
I’m keenly aware of the raggedy gape in the knee of my left pants leg, the worn-out Birkenstocks I’ve had for years, and the circus of juggling spit up, screaming, and strollers. My family is anything but trendy at the moment, and I feel hot and unkempt in my one-size too big puffy coat. I manage to survive the meal with a minimum of dropped food and temper tantrums and make it back to the car in one piece.
I’m know quite well that everything I own is either old, second hand, or half-worn out. Most of the time I don’t mind at all. In fact, I’m often rather proud of the fact that I don’t need your fancy watchamacallit that will make me prettier, smarter, or more put-together, thank you very much.
But sometimes (only sometimes) I wish I could just afford the dark coat that fits well and has a secret pocket on the inside. Sometimes I wish my car wasn’t from two decades ago. Sometimes I wish I could invite a stranger to my house without apologizing for the torn brown and yellow 70’s linoleum that doesn’t match the blue 50’s boomerang pattern on the countertop. Sometimes I wish I could go to work in clothes that I actually bought from a store and weren’t passed down to me– you know, the ones that fit well, and that don’t have tiny holes or stains.
Ah, first world problems.
Sure, it would be nice to have the boots, the tech, the new gadget and the car that drives like I’m really somebody going someplace important. My house might make friends feel more comfortable if I had, say, a furniture set. Or a dining room table. Life would certainly be more pleasant if my children looked more like a baby Gap poster and less like a hoard of monkeys.
But think about it. Wouldn’t that be awful if that was what I spent my whole life yearning after?
When I catch myself wishing that I could just have a little bit nicer stuff, I get disgusted with it all. Why is it so important to us as a culture to look good? What is with our obsession to have just a little bit more stuff, to make our lives a little bit fancier, a little bit more convenient?
I may not be able to afford clothes I really love, but I have a closet full of clothing appropriate for various social situations. I may not have the beautiful coat that fits perfectly, but I have four–count them– four coats that I could wear out at any given time. I have shoes, I have reliable transportation, and I have a comfortable roof over my head. Am I really that bad off?
Let’s take a step back from all this consumerism and envy and keeping up with the Jones’s. Can we just make do with what we have?