My Struggle with Materialism

My Struggle with Materialism

Every time I buy something, after that initial satisfaction, I feel guilty.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am addicted to spending money. I get an adrenaline rush from the exchange of bills, the swipe of a card. That being said, I don't define myself or others by the number of things they are able to buy. I know what it is like to struggle financially, and I know that I do not need material things to be happy. I know that self-fulfillment is abstract, that it is not something I can hold in my hand. Every time I buy something, after that initial satisfaction, I feel guilty. I feel as though I am giving in, forfeiting a part of myself. I hate myself for it, for not being able to rise above the temptation. I could be doing something better with my time and my money. I could be experiencing. I could be living. I could be doing more.

But at the same time, the materialism I see in society astounds me. I have never been and I never will be the person who has to buy the newest version of everything merely for the sake of owning something fancy and expensive. Many people feel the need to buy the newest, most expensive phone they can find, as if that really matters. Does having the newest, most expensive phone make one somehow more worthy than someone who uses a $20 flip-phone? No. It doesn't. But people who use $20 flip-phones are judged, and people speculate about their financial situations. Oh, they don't have a very nice phone. They must not have the money. That's sad. I can't imagine life without my smart phone! I don't understand how people can live like this every day and not question the insanity of it. I never had a smart phone until after I graduated high school, got a full-time summer job, and bought one with my own money. It was only $60, but it's the nicest phone I have ever owned. Life with a smart phone has not made me realize how awful it was to live without one before; if anything, it has made realize how a material possession has the power to become toxic if we allow it to. I have become one of those people who cannot put their phone down, even though I have been fully capable of unplugging completely and for hours at a time in the past. I've changed for worse, and I wish I could bring myself back in time. And I don't think the fact that my smart phone was relatively cheap makes any difference in who I am, and I don't think it should make any difference in how others perceive me. If we define ourselves by how many material possessions we have and how expensive they are, then we will never be satisfied. Our hunger will only be satiated briefly, until the next thing comes out that we just have to have.

I am aware that I may sound a bit hypocritical here. That's because I know materialism is pointless and detrimental, but I just can't pull myself out of it. I struggle with it every time I go somewhere. I see something I want, and I know I don't need it, but often the desire is too strong. And the thing is, I really don't have the money to buy things I don't need. I can't be frivolous with my money. I have to be better than this. And I know I am capable of achieving this, if only I tried a little harder.

We live in a world where success is measured by the accumulation of things. And so we think we have to buy more things, buy expensive things, buy things until we can't recognize ourselves anymore. But do material possessions really matter, in the end? When we spend our money on arbitrary things, are we really achieving anything significant? Do yourself a favor and leave your money at home. Wake up and really see the world. I hope some day I am able to take my own advice as well.

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.

You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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I Am 9,170 Miles Away But I Still Choose To Stand In Solidarity With The People Of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has its own flaws and imperfections, but what I've learned is that even on our darkest days, no one can take away faith and solidarity.


April 21, 2019. Easter Sunday.

I was devastated to wake up on Sunday morning to a series of missed calls and texts from friends asking whether my friends and family were affected by the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. I was shocked to read all of the news about the bombings in various churches and hotels that I'd visited on my trips to Sri Lanka. I remember wandering around the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in middle school hoping to get a glimpse of internationally famous cricket players like Lasith Malinga and Kumar Sangakkara.

Now, this hotel where I associated happy memories of staying up until 5 a.m. to watch the World Cup and running around with my brother is one of the 6 locations in Sri Lanka that was bombed on Easter.

Sri Lanka is a country that most of my peers have never heard of. It brings a smile to my face when I'm able to talk about the amazing experiences I've had on this island nation. I'm able to talk about how I almost got run over by an elephant during a safari in Yala National Park, how I took surfing lessons at Arugam Bay, and how I climbed all the way up Mount Sigiriya when I was 4 years old. All of these experiences have shown me the beauty of the people, the nature, the animals, and the culture of Sri Lanka. While there is so much to appreciate, there is also so much to acknowledge about its recent history.

In 2009, the 30-year civil war finally came to an end. I remember going to my parents' room when I was nine, and watching live streams of people in the streets celebrating that the war had finally ended. This was a war that caused the majority of my family to flee the country to avoid the violence and destruction. Now, almost ten years after the war ended, there was a coordinated attack on churches and hotels that led to the murder of over 300 innocent citizens and wounded around 500 people.

Sri Lanka isn't perfect, but it's roots and culture have made me who I am today. Even though I wasn't alive during the majority of the war, it has left a lasting impact on my family. My mom had to go by herself to Russia, without any prior Russian language experience, to avoid being in the middle of the war. She now speaks English, Russian, Tamil, and Sinhalese. I had other family members who fled to places like New Zealand, Nigeria, Canada, and Australia.

Because of the war, I have family all over the world who can speak Mandarin, Arabic, Dutch, Malay, French, Russian, and so many more languages. Being Sri Lankan has given me an international perspective on the world around me and has given me the insight to look past cultural differences. Instead of going to shopping malls with my cousins like my friends in the US do, I meander through bazaars in Singapore and Malaysia or go dune-bashing in the United Arab Emirates.

When people look at me, they never think that my last name could be Paul. Shouldn't it be something that is hard to pronounce or something much longer? My last name dates back to 1814 when missionaries from Williams College traveled all the way to villages in the Northern parts of Sri Lanka to share God's love. My great great great grandfather studied in one of the many Christian schools and his faith has been passed down from generation to generation. No matter how dark things got during the war, faith is what kept my family going.

Though Sri Lanka has faced adversity over the years, it continues to grow stronger. Through violence, hurricanes, government corruption, and internal conflicts, Sri Lanka continues to push through. Sri Lanka has its own flaws and imperfections, but what I've learned is that even on our darkest days, no one can take away faith and solidarity.

So today—9,170 miles away—I stand with the people of Sri Lanka.

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