I wasn’t quite myself this week. I like to think of myself as a fairly sensible and level-headed person, but lately, I’ve been slightly irrational.
You see, I bought a new car this week. I traded in my bog standard, base model Ford Focus hatchback for a Mini Cooper S convertible. If car models mean nothing to you, the translation is that I upgraded from a no frills, get-you-from-A-to-B car to a super cool, head-turning car. That isn’t the irrational part. The very un-RationalOptimist part is that I made up my mind to upgrade my car, test drove two different second-hand cars (that were the same model!), and drove home with in my shiny, new ride within two weeks from go to whoa. A spur of the moment decision in my books.
The surprising, and rather shameful, admission that I have to make is that driving my new car, especially when the top is down, makes me insanely happy. I can’t wipe the smile off my face! I love feeling the wind through my hair, the warm sun on my face, and zipping nimbly through the traffic and around tight corners. It actually makes going to work an enjoyable experience.
It’s a shameful admission because I’m getting excited about a fancy toy. I’m being sucked into the idea that material possessions can make one’s life satisfying. I’ve gone along through life, particularly in the last decade, shunning material excesses like designer handbags and clothes, expensive cosmetics, and luxurious cars. I believed that life could only be fulfilling by chasing your dreams, and racking up a list of amazing experiences, whether they be living a life far from home or skiing the French Alps, or just going snorkelling off the local beach to see the fishies and critters or eating lots of noodles. After all, we are told that money doesn’t buy you happiness.
So why do I feel so good in my new car? Will I still feel the same exhilaration and excitement in a year’s time?
It may seem shallow to those that shun them, but material possessions can make people happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. Speak to anyone that owns property, particularly their home, and they will tell you they feel an enormous sense of pride (even if it’s sometimes overtaken by the stress of a mortgage). Those fashion-minded types could tell you how a well-fitted and well-styled outfit can make you feel like a more confident version of yourself. Those collector types could tell you how much pride and joy their collections give them.
Sure, there are some experiences that change lives and live on in your memories for years to come. I could talk for hours about my time spent in London, about the fantastic street food I’ve had on my travels, about how I’ve tried my hand at being a ski instructor, about how I’ve dived with hammerhead sharks, and about the time my first date slapped me on the arse in front of my friends.
I can relive those memorable moments again and again in my head, but they are just memories. My material possessions bring me repeated joy right now. Maybe there’s not a need to choose one or the other, but I can come to accept that it’s OK to have a combination of both.