11.16.2012

A Consumer's Two Track Mind

“When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.” Eleanor Roosevelt 

Today I had a sad sort of epiphany. I realized that most of the entertainment options around me involve either dining out or shopping. Basically, spending hard-earned money. Especially now, as we're going  into the holiday season--isn't it all about food, showing off one's prestige and social standing, and expensive gifts?

What about making get-togethers about sitting around a table (kitchen, dining room, coffee, cafe, or otherwise) with loved ones and friends and just talking until the wee hours? Maybe with a cup of tea or coffee for something warm to hold? I remember old days like that.

I often feel like I'm consuming nonstop: information, products, services, foods...but why am I doing it? Why do I have a sense that I must keep up with this overflowing hose of fashion, food trends, information...things like that? I fear that it's just to pass the time. But what if it's because people in my social class expect it? Because people like me do it. Or what if, because the role I aspire to includes that type of behavior and actions. That's a scary thought. This is external stimuli overload.

Those aren't reasons, they're excuses. Getting carried away means I'm not thinking clearly. And not thinking out of lazyness makes me furious with myself. This is bingeing on food, information, as well as shopping.

We fall into the category of sheep when we consume (buy) particular brands, products, or services during specific "approved" consumption periods because "it's expected"--keep this in mind on Black Friday y'all.

It's fine to be interested in learning new skills from using the latest gadget, but why not just go to a store and play around with it. Or go online and look at YouTube tutorial videos. Must one go and purchase the most expensive latest gadget to show everyone you could?

After all, don't we sometimes go to the library to pick up books because we are interested in them, want to absorb what they can teach us, but don't necessarily want to spend money to buy them or make room to store them at home somewhere? Why not use this mindset with other things?

If everyone buys the latest iGadget, doesn't it lose its prestige? It's now become average, by definition, because everyone has one. I don't want to be average, I want to be weird, and different...but most of all, I want to be me. I want to think and act genuinely.

Conversations on the  Downtown Aurora, IL Facebook page, which I stalk on occasion, seem to continuously circle around the topic of what it takes to create a thriving downtown. You can tell people have grown tired of comparing to downtown Naperville--as if that were a real utopia, anyway! Sadly, I see the same patterns in the discussion: shopping, what stores to bring in, how big box companies disenfranchise localvores, how we're the only city that has parking meters, and how there aren't enough restaurants. That's shopping, parking, and food. Is that all that people are interested in these days?

I don't have the privilege of a large family or array of friends to keep me busy on occasional family/friend dates to do something fun like take a walk or go see a movie together. I am responsible for entertaining myself, and have been since I can remember. So I've tried to take the responsibility of managing my time and boredom with productive activities that aren't consumption oriented. It's hard. It's a work in progress. I am glad when I get ticked off at patterns I see in myself and those around me--patterns which can easily be changed, a little at a time, to produce positive change.

Conversing about what makes a downtown inviting to visitors is a great start. Spending time with loved ones, is also a great start. Sometimes, we just have to be thankful for the little things, the baby steps towards progress and towards the change we want to see--the change we want to be. Now I'm going to go read my book on the living room sofa, while my dog falls asleep with his chin on my feet.