Earlier this week I left my house at noon. I got to the town centre, walked into a shop and picked a light pink smart shirt that I liked. As I placed my hands into my back pocket to grab my wallet I realised that I had forgotten it at home. I placed that shirt back and left, a little angry at myself for forgetting something so important. I checked my side pockets and found spare change. I counted the coins only to find that I possessed £4.78 sterling British pounds, hardly enough for coffee and a sandwich. I had to meet my friends for our coffee in five minutes leaving me no time to go back home to get my wallet. I told myself “Fine, you made a mistake, pay for the consequences”, but then another thought hit my mind “Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if I can go through my entire Saturday with just that amount of money?” and so I did.
Suddenly priorities came into perspective. Realising the luxuries I had, and that I must let go of today. I deprived myself from buying the shirt I liked. I cancelled my plan to go to an Italian restaurant that evening. The cinema was not an option for this day. I realised I had made a promise to meet some colleagues over a coffee, thus I deducted £2.20 for my Black Americano. Sometimes I have desert, but today I can’t. I go to the river in the afternoons of every weekend, thus that remains on my priority list, which also means I will want to buy a small box of strawberries putting aside £1.20 as to me that is a must have passion. That will leave me with just enough money to buy a loaf of bread to eat with some cheese and eggs for dinner when I get home.
I am not referring to money here for survival. If you are reading this, then you have the luxury of an electronic device and the luxury of time to read. Thus neither I nor you are struggling for money to neither eat nor drink. Most people when asked they will claim that they are not materialistic. But thorough this Saturday, I realised how much I had to give up. See having the choice to not do something, and not doing that something because you have no choice are totally two different standpoints, and they would change your entire frame of thinking completely. I questioned “Can I survive like this if I had to?”
I started to wonder about two common examples from both my worlds; an Arabian lady and an English lady. When I say common I refer to the fact that it’s a trend that I noticed often in the social communities surrounding me, and I don’t include everyone.
The young English woman is an administrator to the research office I study at. She earns an average salary, carrying a River Island bag, dressed in average clothing. Smiling as she spoke about her carpenter boy friend. She was telling me of their three year relationship, and how sometimes she adores his childish behaviour, especially when he does his reckless actions. I asked her about the future, and she seems to be clueless … I asked her bluntly do you feel content? She replied, “I am happy”.
When I look at many of my female friends from my beautiful Arabian society, I don’t even need to ask the question “Are you content?” I already know their negative responses. They are beautiful in appearance, smart through their education, dressed in the most beautiful sense of fashion. Not to mention a Louis Vuitton or a Gucci bag is a common accessory in our part of the world and as extreme as it may sound, hopeless romantics in most cases. Reading joy in people’s faces as they walk past you in both worlds will reinforce my argument here, if you are privileged to see both worlds you would most likely agree. I am not referring to one part of the world being better than the other, both contain beauty in different manners, keep in mind, what I'm talking about here is the effect of materialism driven societies on our individual lives.
I am still thinking about this issue, only now, I am sitting on a bench eating those strawberries by the river. Money, it is not the key to happiness, we all know this already. But I am trying to assess the level of contribution it has towards that happiness.
See we all have needs, and we tend to be materialistic towards certain things, maybe cars, big houses, travelling, luxurious food, jewellery, brands, books, technology, you name it, if it requires payment, then it is a materialistic possession.
There is nothing wrong with wanting things in your life, its natural. It’s when you want them as a necessity, that’s when it becomes an issue. See the English lady might want a Gucci bag, after all its what she sees on media channels, but she can’t afford it for it requires a two month salary, and mum and dad don’t pay for things in their part of the world. But it’s not a necessity; to her the necessity is what she was talking about passionately, a universal fervour, her love for her boyfriend.
I can survive the rest of my life without going to an expensive Italian restaurant, and not ever walking to cinemas again, or without buying the light pink shirt. See all these materialistic attributes are long forgotten after we experience them. Maybe you feel distress for a few moments for not having them. Maybe your insecurity will make you feel less than others in your society if you don’t possess them. But then again, in such cases the issue is you and not the concept you desire.
Set your day to day priorities right, mine were bread, honouring my promise even if it was for a coffee and strawberries on a bench.
I can live my life with little money, but I can’t live my life without any love.
How much does money contribute towards happiness in your life?! Give it a thought!!Newcastle 24/4/2012