Good God! Good Geld! – Money and the Things We Love

I’ve been a naughty boy. I told myself that “James, you’re not going to spend any more money on your hobby until you get back and start earning big bucks again.” But that… uhh… hasn’t worked out so far. In a new world, with new shops and new products that you’ve never seen on shelves before, it’s all to easy to say “fuck it” and drop a fad wad of cash on something ridiculous that you’re just going to have to spend extra money on to get home anyway.

So I’ve been feeling kinda lousy today, a little bit peeved at my apparent lack of control when it comes to collecting material objects and seeing my bank account and hard earned savings dwindle because of that. I thought this time away would let me step back from my hobby burden, but I just can’t say no to the potential of a new and interesting project.

Yeah, that’s right. Collecting, modelling and painting miniatures has been my “secret” hobby and guilty pleasure for about eight solid years now. I’ve amassed quite a collection… not exactly something you want to brag about apart from to other similarly afflicted geeks. I’ve always seen it as a hobby that has given me pleasure, distracted me through some lousy times, allowed me to be creative in a different way and also act as an outlet for all the nerd juices before I go into social situations or work. It’s a release to me like video games are to a lot of other guys my age and even older (I mean, I still play them occasionally as well, but time is a lot more valuable these days… I need it to paint my latest squad of Space Marines while watching Fargo).

And I’m damn proud of some of the stuff I’ve done. Here, have a look see:

But that doesn’t stop me feeling gross about it, deep down inside. There’s a guilt to spending this kind of money on things so superfluous and temporary and there’s damn good reasons for it. Now that I’ve spent some time getting out of my comfort zone on exchange I’ve come to realise that there’s a lot more I could be spending the money on; travel, events, wooing people and impressing friends with my brand new Ferrari. It just seems to me, that now that the world has truly opened up for me that the little things aren’t as valuable.

But that can’t be true, can it? Just because I’ve spent the last four months hiking across Europe and getting some incredible experiences under my belt doesn’t mean that I should just give up those things that I’ve held so dearly for the past few years, right?

I guess the thing that travel changes is your perspective on the material. You just don’t see the value in little pieces of sculpted plastic and metal when compared to visiting clubs in Berlin or castles in Heidelberg or baths in Budapest. Traveling the world lets you see that what really matters isn’t what you own, but what you experience.

And that’s fair enough, I think. I’ve definitely appreciated the change and the refreshing outlook on life, but at the same time I keep coming back. I keep thinking up new paint schemes, new stories to tell in miniature characters, new projects to while away meditative hours on, hunched over my desk. And maybe that’s a sign that I’m not done yet, that something that’s also important to me is my nerdy hobby and geeky outlet. That maybe what really matters is the experiences you make for yourself not how much you scrimp and save. I’m sure as hell excited to start it all up again when I get home to my huge rack of paints and glues and tools and that’s what I’ve been spending up big for.

I admit it, I’ve been very silly in the past (and today) when it comes to splashing out on things I want, rather than things I need. The thought I’ve always consoled myself with is that money is artificial and temporary anyway, so why not use it to make yourself and others happy while you can? Of course, feeling so guilty about it is a sure sign that I also take saving very seriously. I mean, I wouldn’t be on exchange right now if I hadn’t worked my ass off to get here. I guess it’s just one of those human dichotomies that we all struggle with from time to time: you want to have fun, treat yo’ self and go wild every once in while, but you also want to feel smart and save that nest-egg for a rainy day.

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Treat yo self

So I’m very sorry, world, for my spending. It’s time to reign it in (especially after this half-a-year abroad, yikes!) and take some time to enjoy the true richness of life: nature, love, creativity and peace…

But I’m also incredibly grateful that I was lucky enough to born in a place of the world where I did have the chance to spend a little on non-necessary things every once in a while. It’s horrifying and depressing to think of all those in the world who don’t even have the choice. I, and every other person on exchange with me, sits on this ivory tower of privilege and wealth created for us by the generation before on the backs of others. This is where my true guilt comes from, this is what I should be changing. Without charity and kindness, anything you spend on yourself just ends up feeling hollow and self-congratulatory.

Where have I ended up with this article? I’m confused at it myself. Is it a confession? An excuse? An observation? Perhaps I just wanted to have some truths known, or to show off my models and prove it’s not an entire waste of time and money? Perhaps I’m just getting the itch to write again today, fueled by the pang of losing a bit of dosh to the monster of greed.

Maybe it doesn’t matter? Maybe the things that are important, the things that are worth the money and the time, are all these little moments we have with ourselves and others. Maybe it’s important to spend money to realise that you’ve spent too much. Maybe realising that material things don’t matter that much can only come about from having too many material things? Maybe getting a blast of the real amazing wide world out there finally makes you realise it’s the little things like your hobbies, new places to visit and homely pleasures that make you happy, not having an expensive car in the garage or millions in the bank.

Happiness is the goal at the end of it all, isn’t it? I think the true test of what something is worth. The ultimate price-check is your heart. If something fills it with light, brings joy to another or challenges your brain and your fingers or your feet then it’s worth it. If it’s destructive, if it weighs your heart down or causes pain to others, then it’s most certainly not. Ya gotta feel it out for yourself and weigh up the pros and cons all while living within your means.

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