Almost five years ago, hubby and I embarked on a true rite of passage for couples: buying a home. After months of looking at overpriced, underwhelming homes, we discovered a new town home development in the District. It was in our price range, on the Metro line, and met all our needs. We were excited.
After signing the contract with the builder, we spent hours discussing all of the available options. We visited the builder’s amenities showroom often, discussing which upgraded carpet would best suit our lifestyle and what tile combinations would make our showers even more effective. An upgrade that was a “must have” was granite kitchen countertops. It wasn’t even up for debate, and I fell in love with a particular sample. It went well with the cabinets and hardwood floors we wanted, and I just knew the hint of red streaking through our countertops would make our home the envy of the entire neighborhood. Neighbors would be talking about our home and how we aced our option choices for years to come. Hell, Architectural Digest would probably want to talk.
After we moved in, I kept that countertop gleaming. Four years on, I walk past the countertop without a thought. It’s a perfectly fine, functional surface. I even like it, but my fevered enthusiasm has long since waned. And I know that it’s not just that I’m used to this countertop. I know that, deep down, I’ll never be that excited again. It’s like the great love between me and countertops wasn’t meant to be.
It seems like there is a great disconnect between the things we talk about bringing us happiness and the things that actually bring us happiness. We spend so much mental and emotional energy considering the next widget and how it will better our lives. We do research. We shop around. We anticipate. But imagine how odd it would be if we went shopping for the things that we all know actually do bring us happiness. Imagine walking into a showroom and asking the saleswoman, “Could you show me your section for awesome moments with friends? Where can I buy the quiet moment on vacation when I realize I’ve learned something new? Do you have a clearance rack for hugs and shoulders to cry on? Any sales on confronting my fears?”
Consumerism isn’t bad. We do buy things that genuinely make us happy, like great books and food, just to name two. We would probably all be better off, though, if we changed how we spoke about happiness and our attitudes towards the latest and greatest bauble. It’s so easy to focus on things, but I’m pretty sure happiness comes from a focus on experiences.
We can still buy that amazing granite, but it should only take an investment of cash, not our hopes for self-fulfillment.