Wanting things we don't want

Let's start off hedonistic and materialistic - there's two things I've always wanted in life: a sports car and my own living room with a massive TV. They were both things I always put off until later, either reasoning that I couldn't justify the expense or because my living situation wouldn't allow for it. Having a car in Japan was absolutely unnecessary, and I never really felt the need to pay more rent for a place with a nice living room while I was living by myself. Two years ago, when I decided I'd be in the UK for quite some time, I bought a car. Last year my girlfriend and I moved in together and I finally got my own living room with big-ass TV. Now it's time to reflect and realize that neither of those things were what I really wanted, and I did not get what I expected.

Often what's the ideal image of something in your mind turns out to be very far from the truth when you actually experience it in real life. For myself, I think that, as I strived for the ideals, I optimized my life in such a way that I ended up better off without them. Let's tackle the sports car first. I wanted one because as a kid I loved go-karting, racing games and watching F1. Getting a sports car and taking out onto a track would be the logical next step in that hobby. Plus, I loved to just drive around in the countryside, seeing new sights and exploring new roads. What better vehicle to do that in than a nice, grand touring sports car?

During the years that I didn't own a car I satisfied my driving needs in other ways: I kept playing racing simulations, getting ever more serious. And for the 'wanting-to-see-the-countryside-and-drive-around-bit', I settled on cycling. It might not have given me the range of driving, but any casual drive that'll take you out for a few hours at most can also be done on a bicycle if you take a day out for it. I found alternatives to owning a sports car and optimized my life to them. I got fitter, went on cycling trips, and spent hours on end trying to beat my best lap times in netKar. Then, years and years later, I finally bought a car.

After the initial excitement wore off I realized that what I wanted no longer corresponded to what I obtained. Or perhaps they were never the same and my mental image was always too idealized. Every time I would go out for a casual drive I would be stuck in traffic for the first 20-30 minutes trying to get out of Greater London, something I never had to worry about when on a bike. Any epic hill that would give me a great sense of accomplishment on a bicycle was just a quick drive up in the car, and nothing special. On my bicycle I can stop anywhere to take a picture, by car I need to find parking first. Mostly though, the car brought worry with it. Worry about damaging it, worry about not hitting things on the countryside roads that were the absolute best on a bicycle, but kind of narrow for a car. Also, worry about warping the brake discs on a track day and having to actually pay for parts that you damage, unlike in a racing sim. The ultimate hassle of owning a sports car was just nowhere near worth the satisfaction of having one. I didn't realize that as I was striving to finally own a car, I had already found better alternatives.

The same goes for the TV in the living room. I've hardly used it since I got it, because I'm always at my PC. I've got a dual monitor setup, with the second screen basically a reasonably-sized TV, so I get to watch movies as I do other things on my primary screen. The setup started out as a necessity because neither the room I had at my parent's place not the one-room apartment I lived in in Japan did not have space for both a TV corner and a desk space, so I optimized what was most important to me: the desk space. Now that I've got both of them separate I find that I miss the convenience of being able to do other things while watching TV shows or movies. There's still exceptions, of course; some movies or shows you just have to see on the big screen, giving them your full attention. But I found that for the majority of the things I watch, they're just as well enjoyed while also doing something else.

There's definitely a pattern here: it seems that any hedonistic expense I make ends up backfiring on me, or at the very least was not quite worth it. 'Spend your money on experiences, not objects', is the old saying, which everyone easily accepts as true, but sometimes it takes a personal experience to truly realize what it means. So I guess I'll add that to my list of 'feelings I've experienced personally and now internalized into my mental view of the world'. Lesson learned. The things that I used to think of as substitutes for the real thing ended up being better than the real thing, and I now have a new appreciation for them.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts