The Joy of Experiences
Tuesday, December 6, 2011Tweet
It's something I've heard a gazillion times: Money is best spent on experiences, not things, if you want it to make you happy.
And yet I suck at remembering this.
Even when there's no money involved, I'm happier when I'm out doing things and being with people rather than staying at home on my computer. (In moderation, of course. I'm still an introvert.)
One of the paradoxes in my life, which I hadn't really thought through until doing my happiness project this year, is that my short-sighted impulse is always to choose the option that involves staying at home, where I can be warm and comfy and have control over my environment; yet, going out and doing things brings me the bursts of happiness I need to feel fulfilled and connected to other people.
I'm extremely glad that one of my happiness project resolutions this year was "Say yes to social events." This means that rather than deciding whether to do something based on how I'm feeling at the moment, the decision is made for me: Yes.
"I'm directing a play at a local high school. Are you interested in coming?" Yes.
"Some people in our office are going to this scholarship event and performing on stage. Would you like to be a part of it?" Yes.
"One of my hosts is in a play on Saturday night. Want to go see it?" Yes.
This last one was a text from Mike earlier today. I replied Yes without hesitation, in accordance with my resolution, then remembered that we'd planned to go see The Muppets movie on Saturday night using some free movie tickets I'd won in a sweepstakes. So I thought, well, I guess we'll have to do that another weekend. Oh well.
But then I thought, hey, we always go do stuff on my weekend nights (Friday and Saturday), but Mike is off Wednesday and Thursday. So I asked if he wanted to go see the movie tonight. And we did! It was great. We were the only ones in the theater except for a little girl and her dad, and the movie was awesome. It was a lot of fun and I laughed probably every five minutes while watching the movie. We'd also gotten free large sodas so we bought a large popcorn, which I haven't had in forever because we're usually too cheap to buy refreshments when we go to a movie -- which is a rare treat to begin with!
The tradeoff, of course, is that I'm now up way past my bedtime blogging, and I'm going to pay for it when I try to wake up for work tomorrow, but you know what? That's OK. Because my innate tendency is to be totally boring and follow the same routine every week, and I don't want to look back on my life and say, "Here's what I did with my time: I went to class on Mondays, worked out on Tuesdays, went to prayer shawl ministry on Wednesday, went to choir practice on Thursdays, worked out on Fridays, and went to church on Saturday and Sunday."
While I'm proud of learning and being involved in my church and exercising and all that, being responsible only gets me so far.
I need fun.
I need laughter.
I need spontaneity.
I need other people.
I need experiences.
My favorite marriage podcast talked last week about giving the gift of experiences this Christmas, as in thinking less about giving "things" and more about giving experiences, things the person might not do otherwise but that will create memories for them. Then the Get-It-Done Guy podcast talked about the same thing. I found it a really good reminder not just as a broader way to think about holiday gifts, but as a way to think about how I spend my own time.
If you're spending X amount of money on someone, they'll likely get more joy out of that money being spent on a memorable experience than on a thing that they may only use for a short time. In the same way, if I only have so many hours in a day or week, do I want to use all of that time up on things that will be forgotten in another week (another workout, another pile of dishes, another blog comment)? Certainly things need to get done, but I can't let them consume all my time. There will always be more dishes. The apartment will always need more cleaning.
Sometimes I just need to put down the vacuum or shut the laptop and go outside and do something.