When I was in college, I found a group of “friends” who liked to maintain a certain image. While I loved my college, I found that many of the people who attended the school had their parents paying for everything. I was lucky that my parents were paying my tuition. My first semester of college, I had very little money. I didn’t save very much money because I have/had issues with delaying gratification when I was in high school (but that’s another story).
In college free time was spent eating out, going to the movies, partying and shopping. I mean, how else could I solidify my new friendships? My peers came to Miami to immerse themselves in the carousal and debauchery of the city. Even though I came for an education, I was “supposed” to indulge. So, to fit in here, I had to change everything about myself: I had to get cute, skanky clothes, a tiny bikini, and have tons of money to go out eating (or whatever,) four or five nights out of of the week. I didn’t even bother with the designer labels I was supposed to have plastered on every piece of fabric I wore or carried. Still, I never felt comfortable in the skanky clothes I bought and I really didn’t want to go out that much. Forking over a ten-dollar cover charge to a cheap and dirty night club so I could suffer from midnight to four am was a waste of money, especially since I usually preferred sleeping during that time. My version of “keeping up with the Joneses,” was keeping up with my “friends” at an expensive college in Miami.
What I failed to realize at the time, was these people weren’t my friends if the only way I could be friends with them was if I had to participate beyond my financial means. Real friends can appreciate you for who you are, what you do, not for how much you spend to hang out with them. The truth of the matter is, I wasn’t having that much fun trying to keep up with the things they enjoyed doing.
Yet at the time, I felt like I would have no friends if I didn’t spend my time and money the way they did, dressed like them, and gave a flying fudge about my partying/drinking quota. Instead of involving myself in the cheap/free on campus activities and organizations that interested me, I got a credit card my sophomore year and spent more money than I had in the bank. This credit card spending turned me into an American debt slave who is now forced to find a full-time job to pay for my past transgressions. It’s been nine years and I still haven’t been able to escape the financial costs.
I guess that’s because I hadn’t figured it all out yet. Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” did nothing but made me miserable. I spent a ton of time wanting things I thought I wanted and couldn’t have. I didn’t know that
Happiness isn’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you have.
I saw that quote the other day, and it touched me in a profound way. I’m sure I’d heard it before, but for some reason, it stuck with me this time. It explains why I haven’t gotten to a place where I’m just content with what I have. The idea of keeping up with the Joneses seems like such an antiqued issue. When I think about that phrase, I think of the Stepford wives. Identical houses, lawns, lives, all in a suburban subdivision. Really? Who lives like that: Peering over our neighbor’s fence to check out their brand new super-deluxe barbecue grill. That’s not me! I don’t live in house with a yard and a fence. I don’t even have a patio 😦 but that doesn’t mean I don’t get stuff envy. I envy people’s high rise apartments overlooking the city, their nice new cars, and their Facebook lives. Everything people do these days is so transparent. You see every detail about peoples’ lives you barely even know.
Keeping up with the Joneses in 2013 is really about “keeping up with the Kardashians.” We drool over lives of people who are dripping wet with disposable income. Images of everything we cant have is plastered all over TV, Instagram, Facebook, billboards, and anyplace that has a flat enough surface for print and an image.
And we want all of that stuff and envy the people who have it. While you spend time wishing you had more money to go on more vacations, or buy a new fancy camera to take Instagram photos, you could be living your life. You don’t know what life is like on the inside of that life. Even if you wanted “their life” you could never have it. You could never be inside their life.
I try very hard to stop wasting time envying and copying other people. What they are doing and what they have has little to no effect on my existence. I don’t know how they acquired the things they have. I am on my own journey. When I dance to beat of my own drum,I’m so much happier. Once I stopped trying to maintain a certain image (tight clothes, jeans shirts, etc.) everything has changed. I’m less concerned about fitting in and maintaining a certain façade. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, the Joneses will one day wish they were keeping up with me. 😉