I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why it is we want the things we want. In the material sense and also in the life sense. Wanting what everyone else wants is the basis for trends and perhaps is used (albeit inappropriately) in our society to gauge social status.
Why is it that so many of us are prone to look around and want what everyone else has?
I’m particularly prone to getting fomo, the comprises, and wanting the same things everyone else seems to want. It’s something I really dislike about myself. I’d make a terrible hipster.
I pondered this one day last week as I walked to work in a sea of Herschel backpacks. Have you seen them? They are nothing fancy. Nothing about them seems to make them worthy of being double the cost of a Jansport. And yet they’re the backpack to have these days (if you’re the backpack wearing type – which I am). So naturally, I want one. But really…WHY?
And that alone is why I haven’t bought one. I can’t figure out why. Am I so content going along with what everyone else has, wanting what they want, doing what they do? It’s a whole new level of basic (Are we still saying basic? No? Meh).
It got me thinking a lot about engagements, weddings, and other life events. I don’t know if this is true of everyone but in our friend group there was a several month span where nearly everyone got engaged. I like to think it was because we’d all been dating similar amounts of time (i.e. since after college, about 4 years for most of us at that point). But was it really because everyone else was doing it? Did we all just look at each other and think, well if they did it, we should too?
That’s not the reason we got engaged or married. I know it isn’t (it was the whole, I love N and feel sure I always will thing). But still, if we’re all floating in the same river, are we being pulled in the same direction?
How do you know if you want something because you want it or because everyone else has it?
I want to buy a house. I know I do. I also know that I feel a sense of urgency that I wouldn’t feel if we didn’t have friends who owned their houses. The fear of falling behind or having to listen to another lecture about how renting is just “throwing your money away” makes me want to stalk Zillow like a mad woman, lusting after homes that realistically cannot be ours right now.
The same goes for babies. I have several friends who are pregnant right now. My best friend is due any day. I won’t deny that I feel that pull. But I also won’t bring a tiny human into the world until we’re 100% (okay, 95%) sure that we’re ready and want a baby because we are prepared to raise a good human and not just because everyone else is having one.
I think this extends to travel too. As I look at friends, bloggers, and instagrammers who travel the world, I feel the pull to travel. But is it because I really want to travel? Do I want to see that place, have that experience? Or is it because it’s what I think I should be doing. It’s what I think I should want. After all, won’t I appear more worldly, be viewed in a more positive light by others if I’m well-traveled? If my social media is plastered with stunning photographs from around the world? This isn’t reason enough. What if I (*gasp*) just want to stay in Philadelphia for a while? Visit family more. Spend time with the people who are important to me. In the moments of envy I try to step back and think…where do I want to go? What do I need to see of this world to feel like I’ve lived a complete life?
I think it takes a lot of introspection to decide why you want the things you want. I’m trying to do this more lately, especially as we try to save money to make that house thing happen. Do I want this item because I need it? Does it bring me joy? I’ve never read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that the whole “does it bring me joy?” thing comes from but I feel like that question alone is pretty helpful. It’s about material possessions, desires, and appearances but most importantly, it’s about figuring out what you value.
So for now I’m using the free backpack that I got from work, plastered with the hospital logo. We’re buying less and being cautious about our choices with material things and life things. We talk things over more and ponder our end goals. I think it’s brought us closer. I want to know that I want the things that I want because I want them. Not because of what other people have but because we’ve made conscious, thoughtful decisions.
p.s. I hope this post came across as kind of a “Nadine ponders something via the internet” (was it…dare I say it…how blogging used to be?) and not “douchy blogger gets up on her high-horse or tries too hard to be deep”. My fingers are crossed that you saw it that way.