It was pay day and I was carrying bags brimming with goods from my favourite high street shops when my arms actually began to ache, I was routing through my handbag trying to find my ticket and make it to bus stop on time, without dropping everything on the floor. Up ahead I could see a man with his hat lay on the he ground and he played a tune on the harmonica. I didn’t know this man, where he was from, what had happened in his life, whether he was happy playing his music, in need or both. But I had this overwhelming feeling of guilt. I had to walk right past him with all my bags of “stuff,” some of which I needed and others I just liked, and now I had no change in my purse left to give.
Now this is something I have battled with for the longest time. I love clothes, make up, skincare, music, beautiful bedding and cushions, tv shows and delicious food, just like any other average 20 year old girl. I love to travel when I can and go to concerts or museums and buy my family lovely birthday presents. All of which I have paid for with my own money by working since the age of 15 and on a student budget. However, there are some children working as soon as they can walk, that know of no childhood. I struggle with the fact that even though the money I earn in the UK is very little for the cost of living here, to many across the world it is plenty. How can I justify spending the money I earn on things I don’t necessarily need but because of the culture and opportunities in this country I have access to and can enjoy. I work in retail and so shopping is a huge part of my life now. I was brought up to understand the value of money and becoming independent and self-sufficient. Earning my own money feels great and being able to treat myself and my family when I can feels even better. It’s just sometimes that bubble bursts and I look at the prices of objects, clothing and cocktails and think “this is crazy.” If i feel like this in my life I can’t imagine how I would feel in the world of celebrities. Blogs and social media create this “ideal” world which I find fascinating. “Why am I liking this photograph of a table with some flowers and candles on?” Usually it’s just the pretty colours that attract my eye. I’m all for sarcasm, banter and celebrating art, fashion week (Monique Hullier’s Bridal line?!) and the finer things in this crazy world of ours but sometimes I just think “so what?” and it all feels a little superficial. I’m a walking contradiction, I know. I actually have a whole post planned on being a contradiction and accepting it. But like many of us, I want to feel content and feel that I can use my voice and passion for something good, whilst still being independent and not feeling guilty for living my life or spending the money I’ve earned and saved. Classic daydreamer.
I spend a lot of my time looking for opportunities to volunteer at university but I never really go ahead with them. Partly through shyness and sometimes because I have to work that weekend or I can’t afford travel expenses. Making a difference is about doing what is within your reach. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to live in the Borneo jungle and sacrifice spending time with your family and pet cat to build shelters for Orangutan’s if that isn’t the life for you. You don’t have to donate hundred’s to charities or run a marathon even though you suffer with asthma. You don’t have to do anything at all and that’s fine, but I think we should all be aware of our privilege. Be it racial privilege, gender, sexuality, class, ability, language, health status or even if you are naturally an outgoing person, some people struggle with that. Not everything is about money, I believe it’s about being mindful. Some things are beyond our control. It isn’t always out fault. But having that awareness (which is something I’ve learnt a lot about over this past year through my study abroad experience and conversations with teachers) is a catalyst for change in itself. Personally, I want to make an effort to incorporate that awareness into my everyday life, not just so that I feel better about myself but so that I can share it with others and potentially make a slight difference to my community.
It’s not easy, nobody is perfect and we can’t get bogged down in guilt and forget to have fun but as I said I think it’s important to just be mindful of what is going on around you.
I’ll still struggle with guilt I’m sure but it’s definitely a work in progress and along with my mission to gain more confidence, this year I hope to use my time more wisely.
I want to include this picture of Mrs. Lopez as inspiration. If you haven’t followed the story of her pupil Vidal and their school Mott Hall Bridges Academy you should follow the link below. She is an wonderful, as is Brandon from Humans of New York for showing us the power of social media.