Life is a series of transactions, and you’re spending too much


Money exchanged for items. Favors exchanged for feelings. Time exchanged for tears.

In a society characterized by time spent working, time spent helping and time spent simply doing, we forget that one of the most valuable uses of time is time spent on ourselves. A lot of people are guilty of this; I’m guilty of it, too. While getting caught up in a seemingly never-ending cycle of exchanges, we forget that the transactions aren’t the things that matter.

The world does a good job of convincing us that, in order to be happy, we need to have things. Tangible things that we are able to hold in our hands, look at, brag about. These are the things we are selling our souls for. How many people do you know that work endlessly for their entire lives just to buy things they think will make them happy?

A lifetime. A soul. An opportunity. These things—-intangible things—-are not a comparable exchange for the mundane possessions we persuade ourselves we must obtain.”

For my entire life, people who hold power, or believe they hold power, over me have been demonstrating this series of transactions to me. In school, we trade sanity, freedom, and self-confidence for a number on a scale of one to four points to indicate our “intelligence,” otherwise known as GPAs. Later on, when we transition to working life, we trade family and time for survival. And, as time still progresses, we begin to trade our very own selves.

The things that define us, like hobbies, interests, and spirits, are degraded by age and the build-up of years upon years of spending. All this time, we think we are only spending money, that the only transactions we participate in are the ones made in stores. But, in reality, all this time what we have been selling is ourselves.

Unfortunately, though, the forces of life will not be so easily convinced. How can it be possible to stop spending in a world ridden with consumerism, a world where children and adults of all ages are constantly being bombarded with the idea that they must keep spending and spending until there isn’t anything left? In order to survive in a world like this, we must again strive for balance. Of course, as we know, it may be impossible to stop spending completely—the capitalists of this world won’t let us. But after a day full of transactions that feel merely one-sided, time must be allocated for what we should really be spending our time, money, and effort on: ourselves.

It is never too late. A soul can be repaired, taped back together after centuries of being broken off in gifted chunks. The gift you give to yourself is the gift of recognition. By recognizing the series of transactions we run through in our daily lives, we allow our eyes to be opened to all the stores we have been missing. Our money has been waiting to be spent here.

A lifetime. A soul. An opportunity. These things—intangible things—are not a comparable exchange for the mundane possessions we persuade ourselves we must obtain.

When the countable days have run their course and the material possessions have withered away, the only thing left will be your soul. Unless, of course, you give it all away before you get that far.