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On being materialistic and poor

Mar. 12, 2018
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I stroll into malls, gold underneath my feet. Instantly, dollar signs form over my pupils and all I can see is fabric and steel hangers. Wrapped in tulle and price tags, I stagger to dressing rooms, arms aching from the heaps of clothing I carry.

This is sometimes what goes on in my head as I shop, products weighing me down. When I was younger, I wore hand-me-downs and every trip to the mall was regarded as a privilege, not a right. Truly, that’s still how it is for me and my family. We count every dollar we have.

My father is a high school teacher, worn and weathered by the bad treatment he has received in his years of educating others. My mother is always on the hunt for jobs, doing ten times the work any person should have to. My sister is a senior in high school, about to graduate and head to college, making our reserve of money thinner and thinner.

My mom is worried about how she is going to pay for everything and how she's going to make the funds stretch for everyone. I see her paying taxes, sighing as she punches numbers in her calculator. My father recently bought a television with a 70-inch screen. The first thought in my brain was, how are we going to pay for this?

I often spend my time watching clothing haul videos or scrolling through Instagram, liking photos of different outfits. Mood boards of perfect lives flood my discover page and glittering, gold chains are slathered over poised, suntanned models. I do not regard the materialism portrayed on social media as a bad thing; it's just a bad thing for those in my circumstances. It is difficult to see others with the objects that I so dearly desire. Yet, this is not just a reflection of my greedy mind. It is a reflection of the type of life that I wish to have. It's one unburdened by financial struggles and constant headaches from nonstop work. It is easy and fun. It's a good-looking life of success and unmarred happiness.

So, I work my ass off. I don’t ask my parents for extra money. When I shop, I budget, analyzing the price tags and making sure I don’t go over my set limit. I try not to complain that much, even when I sleep only six hours or lay in my bed, head pounding from stress. But for the sake of my family, myself, and our financial status, I deal with it. To do so, I live in the future, where I am satisfied with my work. Or where I spend thousands of dollars without batting an eyelash, or breaking a nail. For now, I will be satisfied with my dreams of shopping; an act so innocent yet so damn hazardous.