Putting my Money Where my Mouth is

This past year has been a trial in commitment, setbacks, and follow-through. I started going to the gym in December of last year.  I started working with a trainer in January.  I set goals for myself with weight lifting. In March, I herniated a disc.  So then I started running instead of lifting. I set more goals for myself.  In September, I found out I had to have my gallbladder removed. Since then, I have been trying to figure out how to get my  body to work best without it.  That’s just the physical stuff. This year has been about being better.  This year has taught me numerous things about myself as well as others.

Not only have I been learning things through my personal life, but also the outside world.  Before Occupy Wall Street came along, I had watched Inside Job, which was seriously eye-opening and a definite must-see.  I had read lots of articles and had lots of discussions about how things were so messed up and maybe that’s why I have latched onto OWS, as it is (to some extent) a natural progression of what I was thinking already.  Between OWS and the changes to my job due to consumerist demands, I have started to make some decisions.

Today, I put a list on my Facebook of things I would like to get rid of.  I started this earlier in the year when I sold a lot of the toys that I had been sitting on via eBay and felt a lot lighter because of it.  These are things that I don’t need or want.  I feel as if my mind (and my apartment) will feel clearer after unnecessary things are gone.  This is not a diatribe about how owning stuff is bad.  I have a lot of things. I stood in line for an iPad this year, for goodness’ sake! But there is a difference between owning things and them owning you. There is a difference between wanting to get nice Christmas gifts for people you care about and showing up to shop on Thanksgiving day.

Some people have seemed confused as to why I was so against Black Friday this year.  As someone who works in retail, I understand this is part of the package.  I signed away a lot of freedom on the holidays when I took the job.  However, the constant catering to higher and higher consumer demand to the point that some stores are opening at 10pm or midnight on Thanksgiving night, there is pepper spraying and riots, etc… That’s too much.  Where does it stop?  To me, this directly connects to OWS and the idea that we are losing our non-consumerist ideals.  Stuff is more important than spending time with your family.  Money is more important than being an honest worker.  My job depends on people buying stuff.  Again, I am not against stuff.  (I want people to take the stuff I’m getting rid of and put it to good use because I am not!) I am not against gifts and Christmas and my company making money.  But, for me, some of those things are becoming significantly less important compared to spending time with people or taking the time to do something else like run, read a book, etc.

So I am getting rid of some stuff and focusing on the other things that make my life better.  This year, I took in a kitten, Maus, that was dumped outside and she has been one of the highlights of the past few months (along with Thor, my older cat, of course).  I am reading more regularly about many things.  I am trying to continue to better myself physically and mentally.  I am valuing the conversations that I have had with others about life and the world. I am learning to remember to be grateful every day for my family and friends.  Stuff isn’t necessary in that, at least not the stuff cluttered around here.  So I’m getting rid of it.  The other part of my plan is not buying Christmas presents for anyone but my family this year.  If someone really wants to buy me a gift, I am going to give them a list of charities they can donate money to.  While there are things I need like everyone else does, I can figure that out, I think.

I hope this has not sounded soap-boxy.  I don’t mean it to be. I really just wanted to say, I’ve been bitching about a lot of things in regards to consumerism and OWS and I’m trying to align my life with my ideals. I’m trying to put my words into actions.

 

Edited to add:

This video sort of really sums up a lot of what I haven’t even tried to say here. It kind of makes me happy every time I watch it.  I picked up the guy’s book to see what else he might have to say.  Watch.

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Why I Love Occupy Wall Street

I can’t tell you that I know everything about Occupy Wall Street.  I can’t tell you exactly how it started or how the protestors get through each day down at Zuccotti Park.  But I can tell you that it means a lot to me that they’re down there, doing what they’re doing.

For most of my politically aware life, I have known something is Wrong.  That’s untrue: for most of just simply my adult life, I have known something is very, deeply Wrong. I can’t tell you I always knew what it was.  Sometimes it came down to “Those stupid Republicans…” and other times it was much better thought out, realizing that neither side is really doing very well.

OWS can really encompass what you want it to.  That’s where a lot of people are struggling, asking the movement to take a stand, to demand things or move on.  But please don’t miss it: they are making a stand and a very important one.  It’s the kind where you can think what you want about the situation and decide for yourself how best to fix it.  At least, that’s what I believe because you can walk down to the protest and hear 1000 different ideas on how to fix what’s broken.  The thing is: every single person there knows that something is broken. The status quo we have been living in can’t hold.

I will never forget when the healthcare reform bill passed.  Passed.  This thing that I had wanted for so long was coming true.  The president that I voted for was putting into play something that I personally believed in.  Wow.  That was how this worked, right? I vote for someone who shares my values and they make my values play out in legislation! What a magical concept, one that really shouldn’t be so alien to me.  Say what you want about healthcare, but the point here is that it shouldn’t be a novelty to feel like your ideas are being represented. It shouldn’t feel surprising that something that might actually benefit you is being passed through your government.

But back to OWS: we’re never going to agree. Republicans vs Democrats vs liberals vs conservatives vs your mom’s meatloaf.  Wouldn’t it be nice to just all be on the same side?  Wouldn’t it be nice to lose knowing that you had a chance at the game?  That’s it.  If you’re confused about what OWS wants, there you have it: they just want everyone to have the same shot.

I don’t need a hand-out.  I would never ask anyone to erase my student loan debt (nevermind that I can’t currently complete my degree because of the fact that my job doesn’t allow me to keep the school schedule I require to graduate, but I have to keep my job to pay my student loan debt on the degree I don’t have because the job doesn’t allow… see the cycle of joy?). I don’t need the rich to give up their riches. I’m not asking for people to have it “easy” and not have to work hard to be successful. What I would ask is for a more level playing field.  I think that’s what OWS is really asking.  They want jobs so that they can pay their bills.  They want everyone to pay their share of taxes, not find every loophole to avoid them. They want Wall Street and the government to treat people fairly and as people. They want to be represented.  They don’t want corporations to be able to give money to political campaigns because corporations aren’t people. They want social programs that work. They want us to invest in us, not in the 20 different wars of the week. What’s wrong with that?

There is nothing wrong with knowing that the system is broken and wanting it to be fixed. Love it or hate it, OWS has at least allowed us to start that dialogue. The people that don’t want it to be fixed, who give money to the NYPD to buy their protection from peaceful protestors, who badmouth the movement on tv, those are the people who feed off the brokenness.  Like it or not, you are probably part of the 99% that OWS is talking about.  OWS doesn’t want to be the 1%.  They just don’t want the 99% of us to be ruled in one way or another by the 1%.  That’s the brokenness of the system.  That is what this movement is bringing to light and that is why I love them.

Say what you want about the movement or the protestors… You can say their message isn’t clear and that they aren’t being effective.  But they have you thinking, right? That’s the first step in any revolution.