Young and Thrifty

In the world we live in there’s always the temptation to buy sham happiness. I try to resist it.

The yogurt we buy doesn’t put on our face the happy smile of the model advertising it. The sports shoes on the billboard don’t make us better runners. And even the latest bestseller from a familiar author may not actually bring us as much satisfaction as the old, mothy, half-read book on the nightstand.

Consumerism doesn’t make people happy, but it creates the illusion of attainable happiness. It has plenty of critics already. Maybe it’s not consumerism itself that’s the problem, but how we choose to spend our money.

When I was a kid I spent all the money they gave me on toys. When I was a teenager, I overspent on clothes and video games. Now I perhaps overspend on good tea, but then I always drink it.

But I’m proud to say that ads leave me indifferent. I don’t care about special offers. When I really need to buy something that could be of use to me, like a reference book or a water filter, I don’t rush to buy it. I compare offers carefully. I enter thrifty mode.

Many of the things we can buy can make our life easier. But happy? Can a book really make us happy? Can a dress? Can an iPhone?

Next time you want to buy something, ask yourself whether you really need it. Will it make you happy, or do you think it will make you happy?

“But I work hard!” you may protest. “I need to spend my money on things to get a sense of accomplishment. What else can I do with money anyway?”

A plane ticket could be a worthy expense. A restaurant meal for two, another. But these are things that we don’t choose to buy. These are things that buy themselves. They choose us. By the time we know what we are up to, we are already packing our bag or heading for the restaurant.

The things that make us happy are things we don’t need to buy — we claim them with all the bold enthusiasm of our hard work and merit.

The things that make us happy are things we don’t need to buy — we claim them with all the bold enthusiasm of our hard work and merit.

The things that make us happy are things we don’t need to buy — we claim them with all the bold enthusiasm of our hard work and merit.

In ages past, people would go to the market when they needed something. Today, the market comes to us online, on our phones, everywhere around us in the street. We need to be careful and discerning. We need to reduce waste.


We need to buy what we need, not what we think will make us happy.

The Perfectionist In Me

When I shop for fruits or vegetables, I pick them with excessive care. The perfectionist in me searches for those without blemish, perfect in shape, firm to the touch. I know, however, that this is a fundamentally wrong way to shop for food in a world where food waste is a problem.

When I have to do something important, like seeing a doctor or buying something expensive, the perfectionist in me craves as much information as possible. I can research something until the data overload leaves me quite baffled as to how to proceed.

The perfectionist in me can also hurt my writing. It makes me dismiss writing that seems awkward or too personal, even if it is authentic and reflects me closely. He may also make me keep my writing to myself, under the excuse of polishing it to make it perfect.

And then there are the relationships with other people. The perfectionist in me likes to sabotage them sometimes. He likes to tell me that I should have done this or said that or that I shouldn’t have done this or said that. Sometimes, just to get rid of him, I am tempted to avoid people.

When I fail at something, the perfectionist in me is especially hard on me. I may have gotten up early, I may have worked hard, I may have done my best. Even so, the perfectionist in me can be merciless. He can make noise in my mind like a song on repeat. Only sleep can quiet him.

But then of course there’s also the perfectionist in me who spots typos and missing Oxford commas. Who earns me a living. Who makes me eat healthy and cook good food.

Who helps me learn and become more conscious and aware of myself with each new day that passes. Who makes me look up in a dictionary every single word on a page that I don’t know. Who encourages me to do everything well.

Much like my shadow, the perfectionist in me follows me everywhere. If I could get rid of him, perhaps I would. But then I do need him sometimes.

So what I do is try to push him out of the way when I can and not pay much mind to him. Like when buying fruits.

Careful Ambition

A new year always comes with new hopes and expectations, but how much do we actually need to do to be successful and feel good in 2018? And does it depend that much on setting the right goals?

About this time last year, I wrote a list of goals for 2017. I put in there practical goals that could be measured like “write a new book” and more challenging goals that were more difficult to quantify, like “connect more with people”.

I achieved most of them and it felt good. But then other unpredictable things happened and they brought me a different kind of joy, unhoped for and yet wonderful. I adopted a cat. I sowed a new garden. I planted some trees.

If there’s something I learned last year, it’s that we should be careful with our goals and resolutions. If we make them too ambitious, too self-centered, we may miss out on the world of possibilities around us.

When we focus too much on one thing, we see in one direction only. We may need that at times, just to stay sane in a hectic world. But if we do it all the time, we become taut. And when we’re taut, we can break.

That’s one of the reasons I’m really taking my time with the books I’m writing. Today it’s easy to get a book published (at least online, at least with your own money). But actually writing a book remains the same endeavor that it has always been, one that transcends the page. I no longer struggle to write the book I’ve been writing for many years. Now I leave it to write itself through me. Even if it’s going to take a few more years.

I haven’t written down any goals or resolutions for 2018 yet. It’s not that I don’t want to be effective this year. I want to make it the richest year I have lived so far, in my own quiet and patient way.

Written goals and resolutions certainly do our memory good, and in many cases, they make us more effective. But they are more like road signs than destinations. Even if they lead us closer to self-fulfillment, there’s never a goal that will end all other goals. Goals and resolutions will keep guiding us, and haunting us.

Will we do all that we want to do this year? There are people among us who don’t follow the trodden paths, who wonder and who search, who suffer and rejoice while life ebbs and flows around them.

Through choice or circumstance, these people have to skirt the precipice time and time again. They need to be their own best friends instead of their worst enemies.

They are not “special” or “better than the rest”. They have faults. They are only different, not only in their own minds, but physically – they have been tuned to a different sensibility, which can be a blessing and a curse.

You may be one of them. You may have set yourself inspiring goals. That’s great. Remember only that much of what’s  wonderful in life happens in the background.

Personal success can be a cold and lonesome peak. Being there all the time can be unhealthy. This year let’s not be more busy and more ambitious than we have to.