Growing up, I was as spoiled as you could possibly imagine. My mom and stepdad had built what felt like an empire. They both worked extremely tedious jobs that paid the bills and then some. We had a big house, boats, cars, and everything in between. What we didn't have was happiness. Not even a shred. Sure, we had money, but what else? Nothing.
At first, I didn't see anything wrong with that life. Shopping trips to the mall? Why not. Brand new iPhone? Sure. More toys than I could ever imagine? Yup. I had nothing to complain about. We were stable, and that's what everyone wants, right?
Then it changed. It changed so fast.
The truth is, behind the big house and the cars in the driveway and the seven-digit bank accounts, there was abuse. Mental and verbal abuse that just came along with the material items. That was our normal life and I saw nothing wrong with that. Over time, that abuse became exhausting and too much to handle. So, we left. My mother and I packed up our belongings and left the life of materialistic glory behind us for good. No massive fight over who gets to keep what, which items belong to who. None of it. Just boxes of our clothes and a few belongings, that was it.
We bought our own house in town, as far away from our old life as possible. Given that I had grown up so spoiled, I didn't understand the concept behind why we needed to save money now. Why couldn't we go shopping anymore? Why could I get the newest iPhone the day it came out? Why were things so dramatically different?
I had grown to find comfort in those material items. If it wasn't the best, it wasn't good enough. Designer clothes soon became clothes from the thrift shop. Money for shopping trips and vacations soon became money for just enough groceries. I had become so familiar with buying my happiness, I didn't know who I was without the money.
As time passed, it only got harder. My mom had to leave her job as it was so stressful that it was literally destroying her. Then the wire really became tight. Making ends meet became harder and harder, and for the first time, I truly understood what the struggle felt like.
We went from splurging to penny-pinching, and I thought I had lost all of my happiness because I could no longer buy it.
Boy, I was wrong... and I am so incredibly happy that I was wrong.
While I was losing money, I was actually gaining happiness. I was able to live a life free of psychological abuse. I was able to appreciate the smaller things. I was able to learn to not just live with what I had, but to love what I had. A $10 phone from T-Mobile still works the same was a $900 iPhone would. The clothes from the thrift store kept me just as warm as the clothes from the designers. Simple home-cooked meals with less expensive food would keep me just as fed as a steak would.
I didn't need those material things anymore because I didn't need to buy happiness anymore.
Seeing my mom being able to work a job she loved from homemade the small paychecks worth it. Feeling the freedom to live my life how I pleased, despite not having a lot of money, was better than living in a world of abuse and having disposable income. In fact,
For the first time in my life, I could take a fresh breath of air into my lungs and actually enjoy it. The void no longer needed to be filled with money because there was no void left. Looking back, I shopped and splurged because I needed to feel something relatively similar to joy. I needed the newest items and gadgets because I needed something to focus on other than the pain. I was trying to rebuild my broken self with objects and stuff that was unnecessary.
Money doesn't buy happiness, it buys novocaine for the hurt you're dealing with.
Sure, there are days where I wish I could just go to Louis Vuitton and buy whatever I want, but those days aren't important. The important days are when I've saved enough of my own money to buy something that I know will not only make me happy but also have some sort of functionality to it. The important days are when I see my mom in her element, making enough money to give us what we need by doing what she loves. The important days are when I can look at the things I have and actually appreciate just how hard we worked to get them.
I'd rather be broke and happy than miserable and rich. Thankfully, I was able to learn this by the time I was only 16 years old. Learning it at a young age made it clear to me that if I wasn't 'rich' in the future, I would still be okay.
Life without an appreciation for the small things that you're lucky to have isn't a life at all. When you find happiness in the smaller things, you find happiness everywhere. Now, I can appreciate a trip to the mall so much more than I once did. Buying a new outfit feels like a true reward. Having a phone that works is better than no phone at all, even if it isn't the best of the best.
The more you try to buy your happiness, the harder you're trying to fill a wound. It can be scary, but facing that wound and healing it will be better than leaving it to grow until you can't fill it with money anymore.
I didn't just take everything for granted, but I was given two options. A life of misery while you can buy everything you want. Or, a life of happiness with only the things you need.
You might not believe me right now, but less is so much more.
Less doesn't come with strings attached. Less doesn't come with mental manipulation. Less doesn't come with a job of misery.
So, choose left because it means choosing true happiness.