When I was 14 years old I was spending most of my time playing or traveling for soccer. Soccer was my life and my team was my family, even though I didn’t go to school with any of them. Being from a small, rural town I had to drive almost an hour away for every single practice to play on a team populated with girls from the city. On one weekend tournament trip, crammed in a hotel room with three other girls, I distinctly remember one of my teammates gushing about this new body spray she’d gotten (at Walmart, no less). It was bright blue liquid with a label covered in pink cotton candy, and it smelled awful. Sickeningly sweet with a faint trace of alcohol, I couldn’t stand it. My other teammates quickly procured some cotton candy poison of their own and before long you could’ve named Calgon Cotton Candy as our collective signature scent. I know for certain that I despised the smell of that spray… and yet, the next time I accompanied my mom on her weekly pilgrimage to Walmart, I snatched a bottle of that cotton candy bullshit and thrust it into the shopping cart. My teammates, who were obviously cool and happy, loved this stuff, I needed it. NOt to fit in, I would always be the out of town girl. No, I truly felt that this toxic dayglo body mist would make me as happy as they seemed to be. It would take nearly a decade for me to realize that no product or item, no matter what it is or who has it, can really make you happy. And still, every day people are bombarded with advertising and social norms that suggest otherwise. That body spray was the first product I remember being convinced would solve my problems. This was the first instance of materialism in my life, where I was sure that I needed some outside factor, a cheap concoction, to make me feel temporarily complete.
This applies on a much larger scale when one reaches adulthood. Left unchecked, materialism and the need for what others have will permeate every aspect of life. Get a job that pays well and looks good so you can buy all the things to make you feel good. Find a spouse to support your financial needs, get a huge ring and have flawless children and enroll them in that private academy that your best friend sent her kids to. Build a big home and fill it with expensive things to assure yourself that you’ve made it. This is the good life, this is what makes people happy…
Except… most of us know that’s not true. Experiences and interactions make us happy, not stuff. We’re made to believe that we need everything we see on social media and TV. Shoes endorsed by beautiful people, a yoga mat used by the most enlightened person on your IG feed, a tiny home you saw on HGTV because that means you’re not materialistic. It all boils down to us wanting what we think we need to make us happy, simply because we see that other, seemingly successful people have it.
What I’ve come to see in my short time on this Earth is that it’s the stuff you spend your time doing and dreaming about when no one is around that brings you real happiness. Surrounding yourself with people you trust, who support you and your endeavors, that stirs true contentment within us. We only need things so much as is necessary to fulfill our basic needs and fuel our creativity and wonderment and drive. Live within your means, measure your quality of life not be the amount of stuff you own but by the amount of gratification you feel in your day to day interactions. Once we let it sink in that THINGS won’t make us happy we can look inside ourselves to determine what will.