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Tag Archives: Thoughts
Up until a few months ago, I was one of those people who was like, “Nah, I don’t care about the lottery.”
But like many people (and probably you, admit it. Go on, say it!) I secretly harbored a little fantasy of $550 million falling into my lap. I had vague fantasies of fun times. Quitting my job! Traveling the world! Grabbing the first sales associate I see at Bergdorfs and making her day. “Hey, get your coworkers. I need helping spending a couple million on clothes.”
And then, I read this sad, sad story, of Jack Whittaker, whose lotto winning turned into robberies, strip club madness, his wife leaving him and even the death by overdose of his granddaughter. Yes, his winnings turned his granddaughter into, quite literally, a crackhead. If that’s not the opposite of happily ever after, I don’t know what is.
Of course, you read these stories of people living in trailer homes from West Virginia who suddenly strike it rich, and you think, Well, they have no idea what to do with that money. Me, I’m classy. I would be so much smarter. I would get a financial advisor, and donate to charity …
Maybe. Maybe not. Once I thought harder, I realized how utterly useless $550 million would be to me. Indulge me in this thought experiment:
Let’s say I win tonight. (Not likely, since I didn’t buy a ticket, but OK, for the sake of argument and fantasy.)
First, I need to get my butt on the phone to AT&T and change my number, the one I’ve had since 2002, so I don’t get hit up by every person I’ve ever met. And believe me, they will call. Not only because I won the lottery, but my name is so unique that literally every person who has “Alden” in their phone–from that dude I went on a date with junior year of high school to the neighbor I met during the blackout–will be blowing up my phone, asking for money. I mean, I already have a wayward aunt trying to get my mom to loan her money in the tens of thousands. And we’re not even rich!
Next, I’ll need to shut down my Facebook. A crying shame, since I love that thing. I get my party invitations and keep up with my friends a remarkable amount via Facebook. You know, in a healthy way. But of course, I’ll be so popular, it won’t matter, right? Twitter will also be rendered useless. And blogging on this little blog seems silly now, not to mention sort of dangerous. If say I want to go to whatever event, people will show up, looking for me.
Let’s say, next, that I email my editor and give her two weeks notice. Bye bye! No more work! I wouldn’t actually want to to that, because I enjoy my job and value my career. If I didn’t, I would be working in something far more lucrative than editorial, believe me. But if I did quit …
I decide to head out, as usual, for Thursday happy hour and celebrate. I show up at Pianos, order a frozen margarita, hang out, cheer with all my friends … and when the check come, everyone holds their breath. I’m a millionaire! I can afford it, obviously. So I throw down my credit card. But honestly, you think anyone I’m with will ever want to pay for their own damn drinks ever again? No. They’re struggling to pay their credit cards on their own tiny salary, so it’s really crappy of me not pick up the check. More and more people start hanging out as the weekends pass, knowing they could get a free ride. I get pissy, because I’m not paying for Random French Dude’s drink and, “Hey, I don’t even know him! Who invited him?!” and suddenly the mood is ruined.
Now I need to decide how to entertain myself with all that gobs of money. Vacation? Great! But first … hmm, I’ll want to go with someone. So I need to find someone who can take, I dunno, six weeks’ vacation, and travel to Thailand with me. That’s a hard sell. They probably won’t be able to afford it either, especially since I don’t roll with many rich people. So I would have to bank roll their trip. Now things are getting weird. On this trip I want to ride an elephant. Whatever friend I managed to find to go with me doesn’t. I tell her tough shit, I paid for you to come here! I want to ride, we ride. Now I’m turning into an entitled bitch.
I also want to hit up Saks like I’m a Kardashian. So I do, I outfit myself in Stella McCartney from head to toe, get a blow out, manicure and professional makeup done. And … where do I go all dressed up? All my friends are at work. So I go, by myself, to the Plaza Hotel because I guess that’s where rich people hang out, and drink a gin tonic by myself until some random guy picks me up. If I do meet up with my girl friends, they feel all awkward because I’m wearing $15,000 of clothing and beauty services, and they’re not. Now I feel bad, and I’m like, “Hey! Let’s go to the spa. On me!” But the friendship is kind of ruined now, because they feel beholden to me whenever I spend on them, but they can’t afford the things I can. I have to treat if I want to grab something at ABC Kitchen, which by the way, is getting very boring and not-so-special anymore. So I need to make new friends.
I’m not working now, so I’m bored and I have no reason not to party every night–which I do by throwing massive ragers in my penthouse apartment, which is in a semi-permanent state of being trashed to the extent that my two cleaning ladies can hardly keep up. I’m always hung over, I feel sort of worthless, my life has ceased to have meaning and my dating life sucks because I’m convinced no guy likes me for me, he just wants to party all the time with me.
Does any of this sound like it’s fun to you? It doesn’t to me. And this isn’t just me being neurotic. The Atlantic ran a fascinating article a couple years ago that dove into the minds of the super wealthy. In short, they aren’t happy. These are people who are supposedly classy, who earned their wealth, who manage it wisely. But they fear everyone is after them for their money. So they only hang out with other wealthy people, who make them feel poor in comparison because their yacht is slightly bigger, or whatever. It’s a vicious cycle–a hamster wheel of net worth.
So, to summarize:
I don’t want to win the lottery because I’m actually really happy with my life right now, I enjoy my work, I like my friends and I want to continue to have goals to strive for.
But hey, good luck winning the lottery in 10 minutes. I’m sure it will solve allll your problems.
Do You Agree? Tell me in the comments!
Image credit: Flickr/Kelly Michelle
New Yorkers have a tendency toward superiority. This you know.
We are at the epicenter of culture. We know the latest music because it is born and raised in our venues; we know the latest food trends because we are eating them in the hottest new restaurants; we know the latest fashions because we saw them at Fashion Week and every day on the streets, here, in the Mecca of all that is new and stylish and experimental.
So please excuse us if we become bored and patronizing when we visit elsewhere.
This was me this weekend, when I took the train down to Charlottesville, where a dear sorority sister attends law school. I seriously can’t complain–it was a fun weekend. I met some really nice people, ate some good food (including homemade chili, yum), and just generally relaxed. (Isn’t relaxing the sole purpose of any trip outside of NYC?)
And yet, I had to keep tamping down the voice in my head that was saying, “Alden, you are so over all of this.” That voice nagged at me when a girl at dinner ordered herself a whole bottle of rosé with the intent to drink it herself. I remember that ostentatious self-destructive trait that ran through my college years. It’s a sort of finger to propriety and convention, served with a vicious laugh, challenging anyone to look at you askance. You get over it pretty quickly once you are in the real world, because it’s dumb and not cool at all.
Again, when we pre-gamed at an off-campus house, the voice nagged. We set ourselves up on a beer pong table, and I fought the urge to run over to the laptop where the guy in charge of music was subjecting us to banal rap music from the aughts. He played a rather good remix of Rolling in the Deep, but all the girls grimaced, asking what the hell it was. So much for experimentation.
Then we moved on to the main event, a themed party called Salute Your Jorts. That’s right, everyone was to wear jorts. Some people embraced the theme as a call to looking like a redneck, with booty shorts, cowboy boots and plaid button downs. But my sorority sister and I wore them un-ironically, with black tights, boots, and nice tops. This is an outfit I wear normally in NYC, and I wanted to demonstrate how it could be done and look hot.
It was your run-of-the-mill basement party. We got mud all over our shoes from walking through the back yard to get in, drank crappy beer from a keg, and danced to rap music I hadn’t heard since sophomore year of college. I do remember when I thought parties like this, where students crowded into basements, was the coolest thing ever. No more.
Near the end of the night, I looked to my left and witnessed a girl with her leg wrapped around her dancing partners waist, her jorts barely covering her ass. Then she dropped the leg and turned around to bend over in front of the guy, presenting her ass to him like a raunchy gift. “I just thought …” I said to my friend, “I just thought that law school students would be a little more mature.”
I said this a few times during the weekend, and each time it elicited laughter and a big fat, “Nope.” These students had gone straight from college to law school. When exactly would they have learned to appreciate sitting at a nice bar, drinking a delicious mixed cocktail and sharing debate and excitement over an event, book, magazine article, or career move?
I’m not alone in this sentiment. My friend’s boyfriend has been accused of being too cynical and superior. That’s because he grew up on the Upper East Side.
At around two in the morning, I sat on a couch, waiting for my friend to be done in the bathroom. (A fratty, gross bathroom that was out of toilet paper and had a line of girls waiting outside.) I looked up and was struck by a girl standing in the foyer. She had on jorts and black tights over her long legs, but also a perfect chambray shirt, and flat, ankle-high black suede shoes. Her wrists clanked with bracelets. She had long blond hair with her dark roots showing, that flowed down to her waist in casual waves. In short, she was a New York girl. I could recognize her immediately. She was cool without trying, and I was jealous. I could never do what she does. I’m too short, for one, but I’m also too earnest about what I wear. I like things neat and tidy, fitted, classic and perfect.
I wish I had brought my camera out so I could show you what I mean, but I’ve decided to make it a policy not to bring the big, expensive thing with me when I plan on drinking a lot.
I will say one thing: Virginia law school boys are hot, in their clean-cut way. I’m sure they would be boring to me (I tend to go for the artsy types) but they look so good. Look at these handsome boys!
The next morning we had a late brunch, and by the time we left, fat flakes were falling from the sky.
We retreated to my friend’s apartment to watch bad romantic comedies, eat chili and play cards. Again, I haven’t watched a bad romantic comedy in a while, but why not? Let’s just make my regression into college years complete. The other New Yorker in the room snorted and sighed in derision through the whole thing.
The next morning when I waited on the platform for the train back to NYC, I saw her, the New York girl. She was wearing jeans, brown supple leather boots and a chunky sweater. She was hugging her handsome law school boyfriend goodbye.
Sometimes I think of the experience of immigrants from other countries. They don’t ever feel entirely at home in the U.S., but they can’t go back home either. I feel like that sometimes. I’m not perfect for New York, but I can’t go back home. I would be too bored.
Coral necklaces. Fur. IKEA furniture.
We all know you shouldn’t buy these things. Coral is rapidly dying from ocean acidification and changing climate conditions without our harvesting it for jewelry. While I don’t include “animal rights activist” among my list of self-identifiers, it’s hard to get fur that is consciously raised like the meat at the farmers market. And IKEA furniture is both the progenitor and creator of a disposable economy of waste.
But what if you already own these things from before you went through your sustainable awakening?
I have all these things and more, items that I’m not necessarily proud of, attractive detritus from typical status-seeking American consumption. I don’t want to spend the money and resources to replace it. Is it more sustainable to set an example by purging my closet of nice leather boots, fur coats and strip-mined jewelry? Or is it better to hang on to the long-lasting pieces and accept that life is a journey? I would say the latter.
Or I could just be deluding myself. I really like my fierce, red coral necklace from Vienna that seems as if it would prick the fingers that try to touch my neck. Even if I rarely wear it except on those rare occasions where it’s both below freezing and it’s an appropriate occasion, I still like to bury my face in my mother’s silver fox fur coat from the 80’s (thankfully back in style and divested of its démodé bunch sleeves). Though, the fur coat warrants a whole other discussion that you can find in this Elephant Journal post. IKEA furniture, well, my apartment came furnished with it. I’ve filled out the rest of my space with used and antique, real wood pieces, but the table and Murphy bed are square and center.
What are my options? I could:
A) Forget the whole thing and buy whatever strikes my fancy. Fortunately I’ve outgrown that.
B) Put a minimal amount of effort into finding locally-made, sustainable items, when convenient, and keep the old stuff. Easy, but not exactly thoughtful.
C) Do a partial purge to get my closet down to the minimum viable possessions, and put effort into thoughtful purchases in the future. That means continue to wear everything from leather boots to fur coats to conventional jewelry.
D) Purge my closet of anything that isn’t sustainable. This would mean taking some to consignment stores and Goodwill, and throwing the rest that isn’t fit for consumption out, thus contributing to waste, but living a model lifestyle moving forward. Also, that would be expensive.
I choose C. But tell me: What are your thoughts?
Life is not a store.
This may not sound profound. Of course life isn’t a store. You can’t buy happiness, right?
But America thinks you can. Want health? Buy pills. Want friends? Buy yourself a kickass wardrobe and a bottle of champagne. Want beauty? Buy artwork and curtains.
I don’t have it figured out. I still buy myself life. I buy myself goodness at the farmers market, and identity (and a hobby) through the hosting fee for my blog. And I have a Bloomingdale’s credit card that I use and abuse like no one’s business. Consider this not a lecture, but a pep talk for you and myself.
What if we treated life like a museum instead of a store? What if, instead of thinking how we could make the good stuff ours, we studied it, read up on its history, discussed it, and then moved on? We could always come back later, and appreciate it again. Or take a picture so we could savor the fact that we were there. But I bet it would save us a lot of grief and money if we stopped trying to own things and instead just appreciated them.
Life as a store is buying a DVD to watch on your laptop. Life as a museum is seeing a showing in the park with friends.
Life as a store is bottle service with a skimpily-clad waitress and i-bankers hitting on you from the table next to yours. Life as a museum is BYOB at your apartment with good friends and a few new people who’ve tagged along.
Life as a store is a touristy tour of historic and nature sites. Life as a museum is a self-guided hike with nothing but a map and a sense of curiosity.
Life as a store is seeing a beautiful, stylish woman, and adding what she’s wearing to your shopping list. Life as a museum is admiring her, and maybe paying her a sincere compliment. And then moving on.
I want to live life in a well-stocked museum with rotating exhibits, where you could linger for hours and drink in so much beauty it makes your brain tired. I don’t want to live life in a place where people hover, waiting for you to either give them money or leave. Let’s drink in the beauty, take a picture, or just remember it, and then keep going.
(BTW, I’m on Pinterest. Check out my “Surround Yourself With Beauty” board.)
Tell me: What do you do to drink in life like a museum exhibit?
Photo credit: digital cat on Flickr