Superficial Happiness

The holidays always make me want to write. What is it about Christmas and family time that seems to clarify so many thoughts? Nonetheless, I had a very eye-opening experience this past week. It started on Friday, the day before Christmas Eve when I was wildly running around for presents. Before going into the season I adamantly told myself this would be a very relaxed, minimal Christmas, yet here I was impulse buying things neither Scott nor myself wanted to cram into our house. It wasn’t until I was standing in Superstore did I look around and acknowledge the anxiety seeping from me. I was unhappy, and it was because I felt the need to buy.  This need, to fill some void that we self-create, is so toxic, but we continuously fall into it. Why?

We all know I am fascinated by social media. The need to have people acknowledge and affirm one’s relationships, purchases, workout regime, and children is something I am continually trying to wrap my head around. I can’t tell you how many times I have deleted these apps only to come crawling back a few weeks later. It’s an addiction, really, and I wish we treated it like it is, but I digress. Lately, I have perused Instagram and seen that with Christmas comes the dreaded giveaway posts. I fall into this trap people; please don’t think I am immune to this. Just a week ago I spent 20 minutes liking and following a loop of people for products I wasn’t remotely interested in. I wasted precious holidays that I look forward to for quite some time so that I could shop for things I didn’t want or most likely wouldn’t get.

This is where self-awareness comes in and is desperately needed. This is where, while standing in the middle of Superstore looking at who knows what, I dropped the things I didn’t absolutely need and walked away. I drove straight to my parent’s house, held my niece, and thought that this is what I want in life. I left after a quick visit, met Scott at an old folk’s home where his grandma lives, sang Christmas songs with his family, and again thought to myself that this is what I want.

I don’t want the choker necklace, or the micro-bladed eyebrows, or the creepy lipstick that doesn’t seem to come off. So why the heck do I feel like I need to buy it? It’s social media. It’s the destructive social-powered machines that are telling you that you need to have a well-dressed toddler, do BBG workouts, and “eat clean” with the right things, and it is exhausting.

And this is the part where I address the mothers around me, because I will be one of you in the future (not an announcement), and I am terrified of the idea. The thought of joining your group gives me instant anxiety, and not because I will have an adorable red-haired baby. I am terrified because your group is the hardest of them all to keep up with. Your group seems simultaneously happy but unreachable all at the same time, and I am worried what will happen to me when I become one of you.

When did we need to start having a diaper bag that costs a middle-class worker’s daily pay? When did we need to get strollers that cost half of a paycheck? Who is saying that these are the best things out there to buy? And why are we believing them? I look at my life right now, and I know I won’t be able to afford to keep up with all of this, and that in part creates some feelings of failures. Even further, I know that I’m financially better off than some people who have these things, which, frankly, horrifies me.

Is having a certain life portrayed on Instagram and Facebook really making you happy? Are those 150 likes and 20 comments really your source of joy? I have started thinking about this. My need to show everyone that Scott and I are happy and to tell them what’s happening in my life. My need to show that I lost 5 pounds or that my hair is a new colour. To give monthly updates to strangers about my baby or pregnancy. To buy a new car, house, or living room set and remind everyone that I can use a plastic card at a checkout.

Whenever I’m unhappy, it’s usually because I have been swooped up into this notion that I am not enough and I do not have enough. So, I’ve done some research, and you’re welcome to join me in my future endeavors. I’ve started doing it a bit, and I can already see an improvement. Here’s what it is: every time I buy something, I ask myself the real reason I want it. The honest reason. For instance, I bought a turtleneck the other day, that I felt sort-of-partial to, and asked myself why I had done that. The answer I came to? I wanted people to see me as “sophisticated”. Ha! I’m still kicking myself over this. I bought something not because I loved it, but because I wanted to appear a certain way to a group of people, instead of just showing it through actions and words.

The other day I stood in Costco by a sectional, feeling anxious and unsettled, because I was worried the sets would be sold out. I had to buy the couch right then, I told myself, because I had waited 6 months for these couches to come back and today was the day I would buy it.

 … Then I started thinking: we could really use some new winter tires on the car, and let’s be real, the washer is most likely going to go out in the next 6 months. I stopped and asked myself, “Will I be happy I bought this tomorrow? Why am I actually buying this?” I realized that the only reason I wanted the couch was because I had a certain colour scheme I wanted to achieve in our living room. It wasn’t because our couches at home were worn out (they’re 2 years old), it was because I saw a colour, I saw a deal, and I wanted people to walk into our house and think that it looked good. Again, not buying because of necessity, buying because of social pressures I’ve placed on myself. Buying to fit with the trends. Buying stuff so that people would notice it.

I’m starting with purchases, but I want to transform this into my daily life. What is the real reason I check Instagram 10 times in an hour? What’s the real reason I binge watch Skin Wars in a day? I think it’s time we start being honest with ourselves. What’s the actual reason for what we do? Are we escaping? Are we chasing? Trying to keep up? Because for me, I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s because I don’t feel like I’m enough, and I’m really over that feeling.


Why Nerds Are Always the Happiest

Being in junior high brings up a lot of feelings: some crusty and forgotten, and some very, very fresh. It's hard to watch young kids each day desperately find some kind of identity. They're trying to fit in, to find what they're good at, and my heart goes out to them. No one wants to live through the woes of junior high twice, especially me. While this is difficult, I'm seeing a very interesting group of people blossom out of my classes: the nerds. Before we create an image of what they look like, let me first explain my definition of a nerd from a personal experience.

In my last year of school, I was sitting in a class with a bunch of overeager education students. Anyone who has been in the program can tell you that some of the classes are very, in my most endearing word, "fluffy"; all touchy-feely and truly painful to sit in. Each of us was to present something about ourselves in a given form to the class. I picked the safest route by simply showing an old picture of myself, quickly giving a spiel, and sitting down. Other people in my class were much more ambitious. One boy sang, one spoke Korean, one recited poetry, and one guy explained how he did Kendo (Japanese martial art that involves sticks) on the weekend. The Kendo guy stuck out to me. As I watched him swinging around his sticks, talking about his group of friends, and how they would go on the weekends and compete, one part of me sniggered thinking what a giant nerd he was. Why wasn't he embarrassed? You're almost 30 years old! Put the sticks down and do something respectable!

The other part of my brain didn't follow the same stream: I was intrigued. He looked absolutely, completely comfortable and happy with himself. There was no hint of hesitancy in sharing something that most other people would not consider a "cool" thing. I initially chalked this up to a lack of self-awareness in a social setting, but that didn't seem to fit. I realized this guy was a nerd, he was aware of it, and he enjoyed being one. My concept of a nerd dramatically changed that day. 

As I get older I am seeing a really interesting trend in my generation; it's something I call generic individuality. We wear things we wouldn't normally because we see a blogger wearing it, and we wear it before it becomes too popular. We go to places we wouldn't normally because we can post a picture of it. We exercise to post about it, we cook to show it off, and we create to display. We are consistently attempting to fit into an ever elusive group that has no leader. Trust me, it has its own personal pull on me. The other day I found myself thinking I needed a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles, but thankfully I reminded myself I hate zucchini. There is tremendous pressure to experience what everyone else is experiencing. The only problem with this is that I think it stops us from finding what we individually would enjoy. We miss the "nerd" opportunities! We don't get to geek out over things and thus feel obligated to semi-enjoy what the masses do. 

And this is where my group of student-nerds comes in. The happiest kids, and generally the most fun to be around, are those who have their own things. Part of this happiness comes from a sense of identity that they gain from their nerdisms- am I allowed to just make up words like that? They are so excited about something, and they have it as their own. They do not do it for publicity, or for recognition, they do it simply to enjoy. Nerds enjoy things, with little concern about why they need to enjoy it. It is simply theirs, and that's all that matters. No pictures, no videos. No one needs to know about it but them.

That has been my goal the last couple of months. I have been searching desperately for my nerdism. What's so fun about this is that I have found myself exposed to so many ideas and concepts that I was never willing to consider before because of some conceived notion of my identity. I feel like I'm starting to get to know myself again, and I'm starting to actually enjoy things. One day I read about honey bees, and now it's all I want to talk about with people. I love bees! With that has come a greater appreciation for the environment, and I have thoroughly enjoyed expanding my views. The best about this is that it has never been propelled by a social need but as a personal need. As someone who cannot handle stress in the least, this has been a saving grace. When life gets overwhelming, I go off and I get to explore things and find what makes me happy. It has been so fulfilling and refreshing, and I have found myself slowly starting to fit into what makes me a nerd.


Are You Having A Baby?

I think this is the fourth time I've started this blog post. As of late I have been very neglectful of this thing. Mostly, I write posts but don't ever publish them. Now that the mothers of my students can read this I feel hyper-aware of what I say, and so anything controversial, or even particularly personal, doesn't get published.

But, this I cannot stop thinking about. No matter how hard I try this thought has been taking up a large portion of my mind, so I guess I'll just get to it.

 For the first year of our marriage, I was constantly told not to have kids. This bothered me then and still bothers me now. It wasn't a suggestion or even a bit of advice to wait; this was an order. Do not have children. You are not allowed to have children. I had to be a working, contributing citizen. To have a child while Scott was in school, where I had no employment base, was juvenile and selfish. Why people cared about this is beyond me. By the first year, after people realized we were not having a honeymoon baby, the comments started to disappear. People were relieved I was graduating and getting a job, and it was a blissful year of little-to-no baby comments.

By year two, things changed. Suddenly the fact that I was not having children started to bother people. Now that we are moving into year three, and I'm almost 25, people are concerned. I am asked three times a week why I don't have children; there is no hyperbole in that sentence. It has gone to such an extent that people have just started assuming I was having kids. Scott has had strangers come up to him saying, "Congratulations on the baby!" After that, I realized I wasn't allowed to gain any weight. Weight= having a baby.

Suddenly, everything I was doing was being analyzed by others. Feeling sick? You're pregnant! Tired? Pregnant. Hungry? Definitely pregnant. I even once went to the bathroom too many times, and people asked if I was pregnant. When did this become okay?

I am thrilled for those having children. Be around me for 5 minutes with a toddler, and you can tell that I love children. I wouldn't have chosen the job I did if I didn't. You want to post about your baby? Awesome. You want to write out your birth story? I will read that and bawl the entire way through. I think motherhood is beautiful, I think having kids is awesome, but what works for you might not work for me.

While people may deny it, there is a definite cultural expectation. You should be married by your early 20s, have a baby within a couple years, and then continue on doing so until you see fit. This is a normal pattern, and honestly one I expected from myself when I was younger, but I've come to realize this isn't a pattern that I will most likely follow. I'm glad if this is you, but there is a group of women out there, and I think this can even apply to those not married, who feel like their worth is in question because they have not followed "the plan".

It's the little comments in passing that I find are the most hurtful. I know people look at me and they're wondering what's going on. While not straight out saying it, people assume that I do not have children because I am obsessed with work, or I care too much about money, or I'm "struggling to have it happen". Honestly, it's none of anyone's business. There are a million reasons to have kids, but there are also a million reasons not to, and some of them are in and out of a person's control.

Do I want to have children? Yes. Of course, but I just can't understand how at 25 I feel like my time to bear children is running out, and this is because of other people's thoughts or opinions. The other day I was asked why Scott and I didn't have kids yet. I usually give a different response each time; it keeps people on their toes, haha. The person asked, "Well how old are you?" I replied I was 24, turning 25 in a bit. They replied, "Oh, you have a little bit of time left, I guess."

Honestly, I went home and I cried. At 24 was I missing the window of having a baby? I know people don't mean anything by it, but it has given me so much anxiety and stress. I feel like my value as a woman is nothing because I don't have children. I'm not as experienced or mature as someone else with kids. The fact that I work hard in everything I do, and I'm trying my best, does not seem to be a measurement of worth at my age. Working and just being with my husband is viewed as almost selfish. I am selfish because I don't have children. I care too much about worldly things because we are trying to save up for a house instead of a baby.

I don't hold anything against anyone. I know that people don't mean to hurt by these questions. I feel the need to keep reiterating that. I just want to write this, because I have realized more and more that you never know what's going on in a person's life. You don't know their innermost desires; you don't know the factors behind people's choices, in any situation. We often jump to conclusions and discuss people that we really, truly, do not know. Honestly, let's just let people mind their own business. I guess that is the moral of this post. When someone is sick, just let them be sick. If someone has gained ten pounds, let's stop speculating over why they did. We are so consumed with watching other people's lives. In such a busy life, why do we even have time to do this? There are so many other wonderful things we could be discussing and enjoying.

Next time we feel the need to ask a person why or why not they have done anything, let's stop ourselves. People have enough trials and burdens in their lives without us placing expectations and pressures on them, even if it's unintentional. I have been there, and I've put my foot in my mouth, but being on the receiving end has illustrated the pain of feeling like you are failing at "the plan", and that you are not worth as much as others. People do not have complete control over their lives, and we often forget that sometimes things are not based on choice.

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