Keeping up with the Joneses.
The concept of trying to have as much money, as nice a house, be dressed as nicely, be as fit, successful, attractive as “insert-their-name-here”. Because there’s always someone wealthier, prettier, thinner, more stylish than you.
It’s a trap. A bit like being in a mouse wheel, running flat out, never managing to go anywhere or to stop. Running after something you can never catch. Because there’s always someone wealthier, prettier, thinner, more stylish than you.
We don’t just put this pressure on ourselves. We also put it on our children. Comparing our children’s performance in the classroom, on the sports field, on the stage, with our friends’, colleagues’, acquaintances’ children.
I can get totally sucked into that void.
But I’m trying to change that. The first step to moving away from “keeping up” was selling our house. It was a big house, on a large section, in a wealthy suburb. I’d installed a chandelier in the living room, an enormous mirror over the fireplace. The garden was planted with standard roses and box hedging. All obvious displays of our wealth.
Except that we had an enormous mortgage to pay for it. And both my husband and I needed to have high paying, high demand jobs to meet that mortgage. And I rarely saw the house (or my children). And the beautiful garden and enormous house needed so much work, which we didn’t have time to do because of said high paying jobs. And couldn’t pay someone else to do the work because of said enormous mortgage.
So we sold it. We moved to a townhouse in a nice, but slightly less wealthy suburb. We have a courtyard, rather than lawns and roses. Most importantly we have no mortgage.
Rationally, it was the right thing to do. I’ve been able to pull out of the high paying job to write about food and myself, which I rather enjoy. Besides, we have more money available to spend on life experiences, which tie nicely into my goals for 2017.
Emotionally, it’s been an interesting time. Because the Joneses keep knocking. I loved having people over to our old house. I was proud of the work we had done, and of how successful it made us appear. On the other hand, I also love our new house, its simplicity, its more manageable size, its proximity to the beach.
But I have to stop myself from feeling like its a step down. Like we are somehow less successful than we were. That we’re not keeping up.
It is impossible to keep up. Every time you think you’re the one in front, someone passes you. So where does it stop?
It stops when you reassess your priorities. When you realise that a house is just stuff. That having a thin body can be a road to physical illness (and possibly mental) and is impossible to maintain. That your children’s success at primary school is not as important as their happiness. That on your deathbed you won’t reflect on your life and say “thank God I had a bigger engagement ring than my friends”.
You’ll be reflecting on who you loved. The many experiences you had and the memories they made. The time spent with your children, watching them grow into amazing adults.
Recognising that success takes many forms. Embracing simple joys over material items. Living a good life and making good memories.
So I’m closing the door on the Joneses. They’re not my friends.