I realize that even trying to talk about what is “enough” in an American context is much like trying to make a healthy meal out of jello- lots of mass, not enough substance. There’s a lot of fluff in the discussion of consumerism and evaluation of the modern American Dream, but as a young-ish college graduate who is weighing options for employment as it nears closer and closer to the holiday season, I find myself pondering what 2013 will hold and what I’ll need to have, earn, consume and give to feel like I have “enough.”
Every job you could possibly have has it’s plusses and trade offs. In America, it seems that you either have wealth or you have freedom, but unless you’re some uber-successful jerk featured on the cover of Forbes, you rarely have both. Right now, I work for myself as a blogger & freelance social media consultant. I have freedom, but I don’t make as much money as some of my counterparts that do similar work for one big client (AKA they’re employed to one big corporation) with a sizable budget.
Living simply and within your means seems do-able until the holidays approach. It doesn’t matter how much money we make, whether we’re going from paycheck to paycheck or living with a bountiful budget, none of that seems to matter when it’s time to go Christmas shopping. Pair this with the fact that now is the time I have to book my 2013 expenses, travel & conferences and I’m scratching my head on how amazingly fast all this “live simple, live free” stuff has gone to the wayside in the face of consumerism.
Many of us young-guns are tight-roping it between entrepreneurialism and the pressures of convention. I find myself constantly stratling between the desire to live free and fast and the need to settle down and shop at Crate and Barrel like the rest of (perceived) America. I’m currently applying for jobs to add some stability to my paycheck and save for the future, but what the hell am I saving for?
What will really make our generation happy & fulfilled? Will the security of a steady paycheck make me feel free and protected or totally enclosed in the yearly cycle of consumerism… (A.K.A. the message that if you have the money, you should spend it on a new car, a nice wedding, your first home, etc.)
Consumerism can be a fun ride, but it also feels like a total trap. As soon as I’ve purchased the jacket I’ve been gushing over for months and months, the gratification is gone after a short-lived high, only to be replaced by another item to lust over. We build, we acquire, we achieve- the better we do, the more we expect of ourselves. The low-ticket satisfaction of our youth is replaced by the trap of successful living, as we compete with a moving target of growing income and lowered satisfaction.
I guess, as I sit here in a coffee shop, doing my work and pondering on life- I wonder, like most of do after we hit 25- what the right next step is… to find joy in the freedom I have now, though the living is uncertain, or to batten the hatches and apply myself in the 9-5 so I can keep up with the Joneses. Perhaps in 2012 I read too many memoirs on artists & too many blogs, but as the holidays approach and I know that fiscal reality and expectation are in stiff competition.
When my grandmother was a child, her group of siblings rejoiced over receiving and apple and and orange for Christmas, but granted, that was even better than most kids got during that time. Now that the standard of living has risen for some, we find ourselves oddly unfulfilled since we always feel we’re a few steps behind our richer, thinner & happier looking peers. We are less happy with a $1,300 Apple MacBook Pro under the tree than some of our family members were with an actual apple in their stocking. I wonder where I stand in all of this, and what price I’ll pay for the consumerisin 2013.