Hi again! Just popping in with another edition of “Random Thoughts.” If you’re new to these parts, this is where I lay out some of my…you guessed it…random thoughts about what I’ve been crushing on. Some might argue this type of post is like saying “um” when you’re trying to think of the next thing you’re going to say. Those people would be 1000% right.
Last week, I started and finished a DIY project that I’m so happy with and can’t wait to show you. I’m still working on getting the pictures together but I couldn’t resist giving you a little hint: Ikea, denim and 1000 staples; and here is a sneak peek…
DISCLAIMER: The rest of this post is not for the faint of heart or those floating high from a wonderful holiday season. You may want to come back when you’ve come down from your holiday high…
Every year around this time, I feel more and more burnt out on shopping by the time Christmas morning comes, which means that I usually miss out on all the amazing sales that happen right after the holidays. It feels like a big F.U. by the consumer-universe. If the local news is to be believed, I think I’m the only one feeling like this. This year they talked about how more people went shopping the day after Christmas than in the days before. #dontquotemeonthat
Don’t get me wrong. I love presents, I love buying presents and I love getting presents. This Christmas, Mr. Man outdid himself and gave me some incredibly thoughtful presents. He, on the other hand, did not make out as well as I did in the “super-thoughtful-presents” department.
I use to pride myself on being a thoughtful gift-giver and really enjoyed coming up with thoughtful presents for family and friends. But over the last couple of years, I’ve been buying more and putting less thought into presents, which for me translated into spending way more than I wanted to make up for the lack of thought I’d put into the present. This year I spent way too much and I felt terrible whenever one of my loved ones opened a vapid present I’d gotten them.
Last week, I heard two stories that made me realize how far I’d strayed from the type of gift-giver I want to be.
I heard the first story on the podcast “The Moth”, Holiday Edition: 2016 (first aired 12/20/16). The Moth airs true stories told by the people who lived them at live events around the country. The first story in the Holiday Edition was told by Adam Rueben, “Do You Buy What I Buy“, and he begins it by proclaiming himself a terrible gift-giver. I really hope you listen to the podcast so I won’t spoil it by telling you his full story. But I will say that he tells about all the crazy gifts he’s bought trying to make people happy and how that changed when he met a family that would only give really thoughtful presents. He went on to describe some of those presents, most of which required the gift-giver to spend a lot of time making, sourcing, or thinking about the gift. Some gifts were modest, others were more extravagant, and still others weren’t even tangible and only benefitted a third party.
The second story happened on Christmas Eve. A dad went to his local Target to buy his kids presents. The kids already had presents but the father didn’t think his kids had enough presents so he set out to buy them more. While in the store shopping, the dad encountered two men in the toy department who were listening to offensive music very loudly. The dad’s young son was with him so he asked the men to turn down their music. Heated words were exchanged. A fight ensued. It ended with the dad being stabbed to death. This all happened in front of the dad’s young son. On Christmas morning three children woke up without a dad.
These stories made me realize that giving thoughtful presents can be hard and often very time-consuming, and since I don’t have a lot of time or energy to spare, I’d let myself be seduced into thinking that buying “stuff” in large quantities was just as good. But it isn’t.
In my defense, consumerism is alluring. I mean that’s the point, right? Millions of dollars and countless hours are spent designing ads whose sole purpose is to make us think that we need more “stuff.” — that we’ll be happier, richer, smarter, thinner, etc. if we buy _________, and that if we buy “stuff” for the people we love then they’ll be happier, richer, smarter, thinner, etc. too. There is no question in my mind that it was pure love that motivated that dad to go to Target on Christmas Eve to buy his kids more presents, but it was consumerism that made him think that his kids could only know the depth of that love with a mountain of “stuff” under the tree on Christmas morning.
We are bombarded with this message everywhere and every day in the form of direct emails that we voluntarily subscribe to, the ads constantly displaying on the side bars on every webpage we visit, in TV commercials (though who’s watching those these days), and now imbedded into our favorite movies and TV shows (due to the previous parenthetical comment).
All of this is to say that I realized that the struggle is real and one must stay vigilant and keep remembering that more “stuff” shouldn’t always be the answer. Maybe that means I don’t buy for as many people one year if I’m feeling that I have neither the time or energy to put the thought into getting them a present. Or maybe it means that I set a strict budget so I’m forced to think creatively. Or maybe I give myself a pass one year, and let consumerism wash over me and make it rain more “stuff” on my family and friends.
I debated whether to publish this post because I’m not saying anything profound or original here. But I decided to go ahead in hopes that it’ll help me remember these lessons and keep me honest in the years to come. Adam ended his story by saying this: “There are those that give the gift that is expected, or at least the gift that’s expensive, and then there are those who give a gift because it struck them as special.” I will strive to be the latter.
Thanks for reading this self-indulgent post to the end.