i have changed in many ways the last few years. college has had a lot to do with it. noticing the ways i've changed is the best evidence that college has positively impacted my life. i hope the positive impacts will continue to reverberate throughout my life.
i've been deeply affected by the idea of consumerism and it's relationship to large corporations and the dwindling middle class. during my college years i have felt very much a part of the 1%. for all of 2013, i worked at planet fitness, a barely-above-minimum-wage job. i should not have worked there at all and absolutely not for as long as i did. i had my reasons. it was completely flexible with my school schedule and i needed that that year. it was a two minute bike ride away from home. it was a mostly low-stress work environment. i was casually looking for other opportunities but nothing just right came my way. working for a large company (that treats it's lowest level employees like peons) taught me a lot about the economy.
it taught me that i want to work for people and organizations that enrich their communities, rather than rob them. it taught me that i want to spend my dollars supporting local businesses first and thus strengthening myself and my home, rather than weakening it.
planet fitness was willing to pay me as little as possible for as much work as possible for as long as i was willing to work there. planet fitness had no interest at any level of the organization in improving the world by helping people. i am not naive to think that planet fitness is evil, or even the only company that functions this way. in fact, most companies thrive by valuing profit above people.
someone could read that last sentence and tear it apart by saying that all companies HAVE to value profit about people to stay in business, because they are just that--businesses--not charities. but i must disagree. i have worked for organizations who value people above profit. and as a consumer, i gladly spend a few extra on local products whenever i can. it's a delicate dance, but i will never be an employer who values profit above people.
it makes me sad that many americans are making rich the very corporations keeping them poor. but for many people, there seems to be no other choice. in some cases, there aren't. but in others, there are some solutions. i could suggest education, both as a vehicle to obtaining and creating better jobs and as a way to improve intellect. i cannot sing the praises of education enough.
another way that i have felt empowered in this inescapably corporate world is minimalism. i have chosen to let go of the white knuckle grip of consumerism. it is natural to desire possessions. it is very human. but in general, americans let it go too far.
for too long, i let my desire to own control too much of my life. i've been realizing the last few years just how how high the cost of consumerism really is. it's terrifying how constant and deep-seated advertising is in our lives. little by little, i've been loosening the hold consumerism has had on me. i have found myself shopping around a store only to realize i don't need any of it. i have been purging my home like crazy, as i have mentioned here before. it's actually been quite startling to realize:
i don't want things.
i want memories. i want experiences. i want healthy food. i want functional furniture and clothing. i want happy, healthy bodies. i want conversation.
i don't want to buy stuff.
i want to improve the world.
so that's just the thing about consumerism. it's not only disempowering to individuals, but it slows the progress of humanity. we could spend our time, energy, and money helping others or improving the world. but often we spend our resources on disposable products that don't help people in meaningful ways or improve the world. actually, our ravenous consumerism of crap directly damages the environment and in most cases involves slave labor. but both of those are entire blog posts of their own.
allowing myself to be content with what i already have has been life changing. i am less jittery. i sleep better at night. i feel free. consumerism hurts most everyone involved, while minimalism benefits anyone who tries it out. consumerism is a prison. the only people who benefit are the few at the top.
the key to saving the middle class are both minimalism and shopping local. power to the people! (2014 really needs it's own john lennon.)