I produced an article this morning written by a man who had just returned to America from a third world country. He wrote about what he saw and how devastating it was that most of us lack compassion over here. Then, I saw another article on Facebook about a woman who moved her family to Ecuador from America and said it was the best decision she’s ever made. While reading that article it hit me, hard, that being in America makes me selfish, greedy and possessive, and I hate all of those things.
In college, I spent a lot of time buying things online, mostly thing I didn’t need but the desire to have it made me add it to my cart. Packages would arrive and I’d feel excited because the thrill of opening it made me happy for approximately 2 whole minutes. After that, I’d put it where I wanted it to go and often forget about it or use it a couple times. The look of having it was too much to resist.
I knew these items didn’t bring me happiness but I kept buying because I thought I would feel more complete if I just had it in my life. I was, obviously, wrong and that logic doesn’t make sense but it’s what I believed.
We want things just because they’re there and easily accessible. We want things because then we can say we have it.
After college, I moved to Australia with two checked bags and a carry-on. That was it. I soon learned what life was like to live with minimal items and also what it felt like to live in a country where online shopping wasn’t big, or at least where I didn’t know where to find the online shops.
I received an Amazon gift card of $100 when I was there and I couldn’t use it because most products didn’t ship to Australia. So, I sat on it for months, and I’m still sitting on some of it over 6 months later.
I realize I didn’t need possessions over there. I felt free of envy, desire and need. I didn’t want to buy anything and when I did it was from Kmart. I learned how to be happy with the items I had and forgot about all the things I left back in America.
The desire to have more and more only lessened as I went from two checked bags and a carry-on to just a backpack.
I left Australia to go backpack South East Asia with nothing but a backpack. I packed 2 pairs of shoes, about 4 shirts, a romper, maybe 4 pairs of shorts, underwear, my laptop and some personal items. I was down to the basics. I didn’t even have full pants.
I was living with next to nothing and I was the HAPPIEST I’ve ever been in my entire life. I wore the same clothes day after day and no one cared. I was eating breakfast with strangers, sharing rooms with people I didn’t know, talking to the locals and learning a few words in their language. I was getting drunk with new friends and having heart to hearts over lunch. I was completely myself and I didn’t have to worry about a single thing. I had next to nothing and that was all I needed.
I’ve been back now for 6 months, almost 7. I’m starting to feel that hamster wheel roll. I’m starting to think I need to buy things again to find happiness because I don’t know what else to do to achieve it. I want and want things that I know I don’t need but once again just want to have to have.
I feel held back in America. I feel obligated to do certain things, I feel like I can’t pack up and leave right now because I have an obligation to be here, even when I don’t want to be.
There’s something about the American way of life that makes us think we can do all these things to help us achieve “happiness” through self-care and self-love but I don’t know if we will ever truly reach that in this country. Greed is too powerful here. The desire to do anything to succeed is higher than the care of being a good person, the want to be better than the person next to you is higher than the care for lending a helping hand or the help comes when it benefits you.
Life isn’t simple here. It’s not family oriented and about doing things out of the kindness of your heart. It’s not about doing the right thing – instead it’s about possessions, wealth, and power. It’s about who can have the most, coolest, trendiest stuff and dish out the most money, and I hate it. But that’s life in America.
You might disagree, call me unpatriotic or what have you but if you do I’m assuming you’ve never left here. I’m assuming you’ve never experienced what it’s like to live in another country and feel the freedom of having next to nothing hold you back from doing anything you want because that’s freedom – not having possession jammed in closest and totes under your bed with things you never look at.
I want to believe I can find the happiness in this country that I did living in other countries but it’s rare, it’s short lived.
I was sitting at a coffee shop this morning and I heard a woman talking to her friend. She said every morning on my drive she says five things she’s thankful for and it helps her feel better throughout the day. That’s great and all but take this idea from Mark Mason – someone who lives a truly happy life doesn’t have to convince themselves that they are happy every day. It just doesn’t make sense.
Of course, I know, there are highs and lows to life. There are bad days and there are good days but every day in America feels like a rat race. It’s jam packed with trying to get as much done as possible without completely wearing yourself out AND without hating your life.
Life isn’t meant to be hated, not at all. It’s meant to be enjoyed. It’s not meant to be spent slaving away at a shitty job trying to make enough money to last you till your next paycheck. But that’s how most of us spend our lives and it’s not enjoyable.
The most recent move I made was to Colorado. I packed what I could fit in my car and drove across the country from NY. I started unpacking and finding myself needing to go to Walmart and buy more things because I didn’t have enough. I needed to buy and buy and buy because the impulse of having a ‘cute’ house and room and bathroom is higher than having the things I need to function.
When I was staying in a bedroom with nothing but a bed, a dresser and a bathroom attached in Thailand I felt that was enough, with no decorations or frills, and it was enough. When I was living in a house that wasn’t mine in Australia the bedroom I was given with the basics that were enough. When I was in Cambodia and push three chairs together to sleep on that was enough.
But in America, it’s never enough. In America, enough is never enough because we still always need more.
I always need more and want more and feel like what I have isn’t good enough.
I love this country and the opportunities there are here but being here makes me hate myself because I never feel satisfied. I HATE that I don’t feel satisfied when I should. I feel like I’m chasing this “happiness” that I’m always so close to achieving but will never reach here no matter how many self-help books I read and affirmations I say in the mirror.
I’m trying to find a balance, a way to live a happy and sustainable life here but I don’t know when I’ll get there, I don’t know when enough will finally be enough, not in this country, anyway. But I’m trying.