Sunday, October 12, 2008

I priced happiness, and it was 70% off

I was reading Misery Marketing's latest blog post, and it brought up my own experiences with money, and the extreme lack of it.

Money can't buy happiness.

I was raised with these same words ringing in my ears my entire childhood. I think my mother said them in desperation really, since we never had any money. She made us happy, though. We did the sorts of things you do when you haven't got money: we bought old bread from the bakery that was discounted because it was about to be thrown out and we would feed the ducks at McKinley Park; we played board games; we went roller skating on the day that kids skated for free. We went for walks with our dogs during the summer and we made homemade apple sauce during Thanksgiving (which is nasty, by the way). My mom made Barbie clothes out of whatever fabric she had lying around, and back then it was cheaper to make your own clothes so I always had new, nice stuff to wear. It was a good childhood, because my mom was a smart lady who knew how to make a dollar stretch. We were happy, and she proved that we could be happy without money. But my mom cried herself to sleep regularly after I'd gone to bed; she worried and she fretted, and she worked several jobs at once to make ends meet and put me through private school. Half the time the car was broken because we couldn't afford repairs, but I always had what I needed. We were happy, but we could have been a lot more happy with a little extra money.

She also taught me that things like success are personal, and defined by each individual. "The sky's your only limit," she would say to me when I talked about the fantastical things I wanted to do. If writing books made me feel successful and I wrote a book, then I was successful. If I simply wanted enough money to pay my bills, then achieving that would make me successful.

I think the same personal definitions apply to happiness. People talk about "true happiness" as though it is an intangible, unquantifiable thing that does not exist in the physical realm. I think if one can quantify what makes one happy, then it can be bought. If a person cannot define happiness then he cannot buy it, no matter how much money he throws around.

Being materialistic is often looked down upon, as though the people who desire physical, material objects for happiness are somehow shallow and wrong. How can it be so wrong to know exactly what you want, then go out and buy it? Is that person then not as happy as the individual who gains happiness from spiritual pursuits or taking leisurely walks on the beach? How many of us just want a roof over our heads and food in our bellies? Those things must be bought. So you see, money can buy happiness.

I have a bag for my laptop that my company bought me. It's not the best bag I've ever had, and I don't care for it at all. I've been wanting a new bag for weeks, but have been too busy to go get a new one. Having that unpleasant bag makes me unhappy every time I carry it, which is every day. Yesterday, I bought a new bag. Now I'm happy. It's a small happiness, and it doesn't define my life, but I bought it.

1 comment:

Carie said...

I still have the Barbie clothes my mom made out of scraps of fabric. The only Christmas I ever enjoyed as a kid was the one where my parents had no money whatsoever and everything we got that year was handmade by them from scraps of fabric and wood. And nothing was wrapped because they couldn't even afford paper. But when we walked into the living room on Christmas morning all of our dolls were set out with new clothes and new furniture. My mom thinks about that year and cries, she is still so sad to know that there was a time she couldn't afford to buy us anything; but my sister and I couldn't have been happier.

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