I get so tired of consumption. My whole life used to revolve around earning money so that I could buy things—that’s the American, coming to be the whole world’s way. When the economy took a tank, specifically in the industry I was trying to make a living in, which was publishing, I hit a point where all of my anarchist punk ideals from my teenage years came flaring up in me. I got livid.
I got so tired of fighting, of trying to find work, of putting all of my precious time in for so little in return. For a couple years, my husband and I lived in my grandparent’s old house. It felt like squatting at times, due to the state of the house: Leaky bathroom walls, mold, cold as hell in the winter because we couldn’t afford to run the heat. But it was a little easier to live without having to throw away 1200+ for rent every month.
Of course, that lifestyle couldn’t be sustained (due to the mold), and we moved back into an apartment at some point. But I fought everything this time. I brought canvas bags with me everywhere, tried to stop driving the car as much, walked to the local produce store to get food only when we’d used up everything already.
I’ve always been fan of using what you have. For years, though, when I was married, we had enough money to buy what we wanted when we wanted it. We could eat out, we could buy more groceries when we already had groceries. Gas was less than half the price it is now, so we could drive whenever, wherever we wanted without worrying about gas. Then gas prices went up. And we moved where we had to drive our car everywhere, where there were more box stores than independent markets.
I felt like each year that went by where I had to endlessly fill up the gas tank and shop at nameless, faceless stores was killing me inside.
As a teenager, I’d always loved shopping at small local health food stores. I’d been vegan in an effort to help with our pesky factory farming addiction. Seemed at the little markets everyone knew my name and I didn’t mind throwing down my money. When I was 17, I didn’t want to get a driver’s license, because then I would stop riding my bike so much.
One side effect of my marriage ending was moving back to an urban area. I’m still blown away that I can get away with using so little gas, buying so little food, spending so little on rent by rooming with others.
It’s not just because I’m only taking care of me now, although that’s probably a big contributor, but it’s also my refusal to be wasteful anymore. I’m tired of wasting gas and food and money. I’m tired of useless nic nacs. I’m tired of conspicuous, endless consumption.
I learned a long time ago that the more I work, the more I spend. Sure, right now, I could stand to earn a couple hundred more bucks a month, but somehow, I’m surviving pretty well on the little I do make. It’s a struggle…and a lot of times I freak out when I sit and think about it too much, but all in all, I seem to be faring OK.
I wonder what would happen if we all started using the food we buy, commuting less, not purchasing crap we don’t need all the time but rather supporting the work of artists and small shops we admire. I feel like I’ve grown to despise how our society is set up: work, buy, consume, die. I’m tired of it. I wish there were another way, a way more connected with the earth we are part of, more connected with a community and not faceless endless production. Everything we buy or eat comes from somewhere, has some effect.
I know one person can’t change the world, but I can at least live in a way that doesn’t kill me slowly inside every day. I don’t live to shop, I live to learn and create and experience and grow. I love food just as much as anyone else. I love road trips, all that stuff, but I’m yearning for a life that’s more than just spending all of our days in buildings so we can spend weekends in buildings acquiring more stuff.
In the end, stuff doesn’t matter a fraction as much as experience and connection. So for now, I ride my bike instead of drive the car whenever I can. I try to network with peers, share food and company and resources. I cook big batches of food to eat throughout the week, buy less clothes and shop at thrift stores so I am reusing what already exists AND have less laundry to wash, find myself doing things like hiking and writing and creating music for fun instead of spending the weekend shopping for more stuff.
I want to sustain this new way of life: Work less, enjoy life more. But I feel that grind pushing in on me from all directions whenever I peer out into the world of stores around me, realizing full well that our modern world has been set up in a way that promotes consumption as an end goal in itself.
I don’t know how to get away from it completely, and I’m not knocking all our ancestors have done to promote this ability I have to enjoy my time more, I’m not knocking the benefits of convenience, it’s just the old ennui bearing down on me. There has to be a better way. I hope we can find it.