Often we tend to buy things that we feel would define us. A pair of jeans of this brand, a shirt of this color, or a lip gloss of a particular shade. We are often told things like “oh that dress fits you beautifully”, or “Red is definitely your color”. Our personality is associated with all the “attributes” that are responsible for defining us.
We tend to get comfortable thinking that way, or giving in to buying “things” because it’s so “us”. Once we start letting such “things” define us, what happens to us? I, for one who loves to buy clothes, accessories, books or anything pretty should know. I am asking these questions out loud, because I am still trying to figure this out.
When I became a parent, I had to be a little more careful about what is “wanted” Vs “needed”. It was a great time to introspect, and look back at the experiences I had. There are so many incidents but I remember this one in particular.
When I was in middle school, it was compulsory to wear white on Saturdays for physical training. That included a white uniform, white ribbons, and white shoes and socks. Why they made us wear white was beyond me because the dresses and the shoes got very muddy and dirty. I washed my canvas shoes diligently, and with rigor to make it as white as it could be, so that I could wear it the following week to school. I guess over time they wore out, and I was due for a new pair. There were new ones in the market then (the sleek ones, with thicker soles, to last longer). They were so pretty, and also expensive. I brought this to my dad’s attention that I needed new shoes, and having the newer design might be helpful.
Times were hard then, we had to wait to get everything we needed.
The idea of the new white canvas shoe was happiness. I thought it would look perfect with my uniform, and it would make me look prettier. The anticipation became an obsession, and I started having dreams about wearing it, and being the best looking person in class (on earth!).
A few weeks passed by and I didn’t hear back from my parents on why they weren’t buying me these shoes yet. The obsession continued with my eyes glimmering every time we passed by a store that had these shoes. I could almost feel the soft soles on my feet and practiced on perfecting my walk. The shoes became the only thing I could think or care about.
The school had a few holidays during October and as always we visited our relatives. When I went to my cousin’s, I was so excited about indulging her with my latest obsession. She heard it, and then showed me a pair that she recently bought. My face fell, and I was visibly sad. The next day when she went outside, I slowly tried them on. (they were slightly bigger, but who cares!). Determined, I walked around in the yard, and used a different entrance to the house so that no one would see me wearing these shoes. As luck would have it, I stepped on some dirt (cow dung perhaps) and the shoes got dirty. Hurriedly, I took it to the bathroom and tried to clean it, but, the stain wouldn’t go.
I had to tell my cousin, that I had worn her new shoes, and got them dirty. It was very hard, and what was even harder was facing my parents. I didn’t know what to say, I knew by the look on my mother’s face that I was in a lot of trouble.
I then looked at my father. He was disappointed, but he gently asked me to go sit next to him.
He told me “Shru, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since you asked me to buy you a pair of new shoes. I am sorry I haven’t been able to buy them yet, because we have had other expenses that came by. I never had any shoes to wear until I was in college. My first pair was a hand me down, which needed a lot of stitching. I never let that stop me from being happy, or let that define me. You will understand this someday. I will do my best to buy this for you at the earliest”.
I must have cried a lot that day, resented my parents, my behavior, my cousin for having those shoes before me, but I learnt a very important lesson that day, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Never let something apart from “you”, define you. Love people for who they are, not for what they have, or what they might be able to give you. I constantly struggle with this, but I am learning to see people for who they are.
I hope I can be half as good as my parents, and teach my child her importance before everything else that could or would define her. Someday, perhaps, I will teach her the importance of everything money cannot buy. For now, I have to go back to look at the puzzle she just put together.