Since living in Argentina for seven months I have become accustomed to life without luxury. In fact South America taught me a lot about how blindly North American’s covet possessions to stave off tremendous boredom. It’s not that I wasn’t already aware of that fact, but now that I’m in Toronto I can appreciate more of Argentine culture that I refused to while I was there.
For starters, Torontonians are incredibly stuck up people! I mean it. If I judge by my condo building alone, they are the most uptight people in the world. Relax a little guys, don’t take yourselves so seriously. I recognize now, how wrong it was of me in Buenos Aires to not see the humour when someone made a light joke at my expense. Talk about sensitive! Turn that frown upside down, mister!
To mask our boredom Torontonians participate in a shit load of extra curricular activities, and make trends and fads out of everything, the top on that list would be food, which women seem to almost want to make love to. Growing up Italian and having homemade meals every night, I don’t understand the fascination with food North Americans have, but they are obsessed with the very topic. I’ve tried to play along, and have even posted a few entries on my blog about meals that I’ve made here at home, but I just feel like a tool afterwards. Food doesn’t excite me the way an evening out with friends does.
Torontonians also love clubs. We love to belong to book clubs, baking clubs, cycling clubs, running clubs, you name it, we sign up for them. But they don’t make us any smarter, fitter or friendlier, if you ask me. We just end up acting smug, as though we’re more enlightened for having ripped off another culture for our own entertainment.
North Americans believe that the more they consume the happier they will be, but statistics don’t lie. Happiness indexes universally demonstrate that although we are the wealthiest, we are also the most depressed. When I was in South America some Argentines would ask me why we take so many pills in North America. It was in fact, a good question. They’re more happy and with very little. And then spoiled rotten people like me move there and complain because I have to wait an extra five minutes in line to get a razor. The shame I feel now, is unbelievable.
Torontonians (I’m sure it can be applied to other parts of North America) have an unhealthy sense of entitlement. One of the things I hear my friends say often is that they “deserve it.” This is odd to me. They’ll call in sick on a Friday and make an appointment at the spa, justifying their choice with the familiar, “I deserve this.” Everyone deserves to pamper themselves from time to time, I certainly have, but we demand it, shamelessly.
If you ask me the people who “deserve it” are the ones who live and work for very little and struggle to put food on their table to feed their families. The ones who have lived in generational poverty and who have been shunned by society as having less value and worth. Those are the people who deserve it, not a public relations specialist.
Last night I cracked open my closet and with a garbage bag in hand began eliminating items from my wardrobe. For years I have done this; every couple of months I like to give away clothes to Goodwill or some other charitable organization, because there are people who will wear something that I no longer do, and who need them more. I must have had 20 sweaters that I no longer wear just sitting there waiting to be loved. And so, though it was challenging, I filled that garbage bag up to the top and this morning walked over to the Goodwill on Richmond St. E. and gave it away. As soon as I made the decision to donate items that I had, but wasn’t using, I understood how surprisingly painless and freeing downsizing can be.
The hardest part for me are my shoes. I have a shoe fetish, I’m not going to lie. I have downsized and now own 15 pairs, but I need to simplify some more. But even I, despite all my musings in this post, struggle with consumption. What is it about the human species that we draw attachments to material objects so easily? The more we own the more valuable we think we are.
Of course I will have to end this post on the side of being preachy. I apologize, I am not Oprah, I do not pretend to have all the answers at the expense and exploitation of others for my own monetary gain. All I have is a philosophy that I try to remember while navigating through life’s rocky moments. So here it is: Our value is not determined by our occupation, or how much money we make, or how much, and what we own. It is determined by how we treat those who are less fortunate than us, and how we can change the world through selfless acts.
For me, that’s what I aspire to. A job, a car, a home, don’t even come secondary. Humility is the most important characteristic a person can possess.