You have to possess something before you can give it away.
This is a concept that seems simple, but in our society has become extremely difficult to grasp. We live in a culture riddled with the illusion of possessing things we don't actually have. You can actually buy followers on Instagram. I have seen people spend half an hour staging a shot for Instagram, and then act like someone took it candidly. I have laid out items to be aesthetically pleasing, cropping out all the junk and piles of dirty laundry hanging out nearby. We're living in a culture essentially of tricking people in to liking us, based on what we present on social media. But, though we try, we can't fool ourselves, and that gross feeling of being a fraud will eventually catch up with you.
I used to dream about living in communal housing, traveling around the world with nothing but a backpack of necessities to my name; completely free from the pressure of society. The people I looked up to ate out of dumpsters and promoted a culture of simplicity and hardcore recycling. I was determined to be a "world changer".
These ideals in and of themselves aren't bad or wrong, but I was so frustrated with society and consumerism that I was missing out on a lot of things. I didn't take good care of what I did have, and my work ethic wasn't very good because my appreciation was small. I was stingy and anxious, all in the name of anti-consumerism, and I was judgmental toward people who did have nice things.
Surprisingly, spending a good deal of time with the homeless changed things for me. I'd meet people who'd been living on the streets for months, and bring them to my apartment so they could shower and get something to eat, but I didn't have much to offer them. I maybe had a carton of eggs, a few cans of beans and some ramen at any given time. It began to occur to me that this wasn't the kind of hospitality I wanted to be able to offer; I started to realize that you have to possess something before you can give it away.
By the time I was 26, I'd fully developed my appreciation for material possessions and had fallen in love with the concept of hospitality. My best friend and roommate at the time told me, "you should never own anything that doesn't make you feel like dancing." (these photos are of little things I've collected that make me feel like dancing)
I clung hard to that ideal (and still do), and learned about good quality makeup, found brands I love (hellooooo, Anthropologie, Madewell, and Restoration Hardware <3), and was introduced to the culture of small business, independent design and creative entrepreneurs. Hand-crafted and well-made became my mantra, and I longed to live in the world these people crafted.
This was really good for me. I learned to appreciate hard work, craftsmanship, and learned how to take good care of my possessions. I learned to appreciate quality over quantity, and that you can still own and care about beautiful, well made things, and be a compassionate, down to earth, and generous person.
But as often happens, the pendulum swung a little too far. At some point, the "before you can give it away" part dropped off of "You have to possess something before you can give it away". I more recently realized I've completely forgotten what had made me fall in love with the idea of "having", and unwittingly sold myself to the social media driven society of self promotion, branding, and second guessing everything.
A week ago my car broke down, and this week I found out it'll cost so much to fix it that it's probably more worthwhile to just buy a new car. Which is soooo easy, since I'm so good at being an adult and totally have money set aside for this kind of thing. Haha. Lol. ;'-( I do believe there's a purpose for everything, and in this case I think it was a reminder to be grateful.
In my days of worshiping the "own nothing" mentality, I met a lot of really incredible people at the Soup Kitchen I hung out at. I met foreigners who probably weren't here legally, couldn't earn money legally, and packed generations of their family into one small house. They were happy just to be here. I met middle aged men who'd obviously seen better days mentally, but were always quick to share what they had with me (which was usually light beer). Almost everyone would offer to share their food with me. One older woman crocheted me a really beautiful doily.
They understood that what they have today, they might not have tomorrow, and so they were grateful in the moment. They didn't tell themselves that they would be grateful tomorrow when they had their lives together, they were thankful right then, for the food on their plates, and the conversations they were having.
It would seem that the opposite of greed isn't actually generosity, it's gratefulness (which often leads to generosity). I'm still miles away from hitting some of the goals I've set, but I'm excited to pursue those goals with a fresh mindset. To remember that I want to have a successful business so that I can eventually buy a house to invite people over to where they can feel like family, so that I can travel and meet people and learn about different cultures, and come home and contribute to our city; to learn how to cook really well, so I can share that love with others; to create images that showcase how beautiful humanity is, and help others walk a mile in another humans shoes; to really have compassion deep rooted within me. Although I am a long way from where I'd like to be, I'm thankful for where I am in this process, and for the people around me I get to share that process with.
I want to live a life that actually has substance, not that just looks like it has substance on social media.
What is it you really want to be able to give away to the next generation? In 80 years, you're not going to be cool anymore. There will be a younger, cooler crowd taking your place, and all you can do is hope that you've contributed something worth while during your short visit on this planet. So what is it you really want to leave behind? You have to possess something before you can give it away.
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver