“I want something.”
From the time I started speaking, those three words came out of my mouth everywhere I went during my single digit years. Upon initial request, it was a quiet statement that came from the mouth of a little girl wearing bonnets and dresses sewn by her grandmother. But if my request was left unanswered, it became a louder whine of sorts. “I WAAAAANNNNT SOMETHING!!!” It didn’t necessarily mean I wanted something extravagant. Sometimes, my demand was satisfied with a stick of Big Red or Juicy Fruit gum. And as I got older, I was happy getting a copy of the latest Teen Beat magazine with one of the Corey’s on the cover (as in Feldman or Haim from the 80’s). I’m sure my parents hoped I would outgrow that phase, for undoubtedly my taste would become more expensive that a 5-cent piece of gum or two-dollar magazine. And thank God I stopped whining that phrase out loud by the time I started wearing a training bra. But I’m still human. Inside, we all find ourselves thinking, “I want something,” no matter our age.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled from Cleveland to Washington, DC to visit a friend. During one of our outings, we ended up at a fabulous outlet mall where I hoped to find a great deal on a cashmere sweater. With little patience for browsing through racks upon racks of clothing, I quickly decided that cashmere was not in my future that day. And so my friend and I left the department store with a plan to grab a bite to eat. As we headed out the door, something caught my eye. And I could faintly hear angels from heaven, with British accents, calling me to another store front. A store known for its iconic trench coats and heritage scarves. The brand goes by one name. Burberry. And immediately, that little voice inside my head said... “I want something.”
We all have that one material thing we would buy if money was no object. Okay, maybe it’s more than one thing. On my list, it‘s a winter white, Burberry trench coat. The kind Olivia Pope would wear. (If you watch ABC’s Scandal, you know what I’m talking about. For those who don’t, she’s the best dressed woman on primetime television). I covet that coat. I think about how sophisticated and smart I would look wearing it with a pair of Jackie O sunglasses. Or with nothing at all. It exudes perfection all by itself. But as I walked through the doors of the store that made The Trench Coat famous, I knew that I would be lucky if I found even an umbrella on sale. And so in my yoga pants and Nike sneakers (dirty from an earlier walk on a Civil War path... Hey, I had no idea that outlet shopping was going to include Burberry), I happily browsed through every display.
The coats were beautiful. The handbags were classic. And even the scarves were expensive. As I made my way to the back of the store, I noticed a magic sign. It read: 50% Off. Could it be? Half off Burberry clothing? Was it possible that something on that rack was in my budget? I scurried over to that small section to check out the prices. And there it was. (Cue the angelic British voices). My coat! The one I dreamed of owning. It was the perfect shade of white (Yes, there are shades of white). And hanging there was a coat in my size! I had to try it on! Of course it fit perfectly, as if it was made just for me. The Burberry gods knew I was coming into the store and they wanted me to have that coat. I looked at the price tag. Marked in red, at 50% off, my perfect coat was $700. Yes, that was the discounted price. And so I stood in my dressing room in silence, while my inner voice battled between two thoughts... I want something vs. Is this something I need?
700 dollars. That’s a lot of money. I had the money. But I also thought about all of the things I should be doing with that money... car payments, upcoming holiday gifts, and incoming bills. Not to mention, I was just starting a business of my own. The responsible choice would be to invest my money in myself. Not my wardrobe. Yet, the inner battle continued...
When would I ever find my perfect Burberry coat on sale for half of the original price? It would likely never happen again. And when I slipped into that coat, I felt like a million bucks (even while wearing my dirty Nike’s).
I sat in the dressing room for a long time. I took pictures of myself wearing the coat. And I examined myself in the three-way mirror to see what it looked like from behind. I consulted with my friend who cast her vote FOR making the purchase. And then I spent more alone time with my perfect Burberry coat. Just the two of us. Trying to decide if we would leave together. Eventually it was time for me to leave the dressing room before the Burberry gods sent in Burberry security.
It wasn’t an easy decision. But the decision was made. I left the store without my perfect coat.
I thought about a conversation I had with a close friend two weeks prior. At the time, I was looking at my perfect handbag. It was a black patent leather Louis Vuitton (which I had no business spending the money on). But it was also on my “I want something” list. My friend had a closet full of those bags. And while holding her Prada purse, she told me something very important as I debated making the purchase. She said, “Yes it’s a beautiful bag. And maybe one day you will buy it. But it won’t make you happy. These things never make you truly happy. It’s momentary happiness. And eventually it passes.”
As we head into a New Year, people always talk about resolutions; ways to improve your life; changes you need to make to become more fulfilled; or how to find the elusive thing we call happiness. The truth is, true happiness isn’t that hard to find. It’s not on the sale rack, or at Saks Fifth Avenue. It’s not at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, or in the taste of good champagne. Sure, those things can bring a flash of happiness. But it’s fleeting. Eventually, the bills you can’t afford will come in the mail. And the sorrows you drown in will be there after you wake up from your hangover.
If you really WANT SOMETHING that stands the test of time, seek out the best kind of investment this year... Invest in yourself. Look for healthy relationships - and settle for nothing less. Commit to a healthy lifestyle for your mind and body - it will pay off and change your life for the better. Fine tune your people picker - get rid of those who cause you angst and spend more time with those who make you laugh and learn. Do something you said you always wanted to do - and make no excuses why you can’t. Find something to be grateful for every day - and say it out loud.
Are these things you want? You should.
Are these things you need? The answer is most definitely yes.