How Not To Prove You’re Cool.
Last week, I scored an oversized tee at a vintage store for $3. It said “Loon Magic” on it and featured a picture of…a magical loon. I immediately knew I could cut the neck out (like a good lil’ hipster) and fall in deep love with it. Sold.
Once home, I figured I should look up the logo and see what it’s all about. (For all I knew, Loon Magic coulda been code for doing cocaine in the 70s… in which case I may have needed to reevaluate the purchase.)
Thankfully, I learned that Loon Magic was a popular book from the 1980’s about the magic of (yes!) loons. And while I could have satisfied myself with the 10-second search, I instead partook in a 20-minute black hole time suck, littered with bad intentions. You see, I quickly decided that the only way I could proudly wear the vintage tee and not be a complete fraud was to OWN and BE REALLY FAMILIAR WITH the original book.
My “buy-something-to-prove-I’m-cool” switch turned on, and I was off to the races.
I imagined some future conversation at an elite underground party, where someone notices my shirt, and they’re like, “Cool tee. What’s Loon Magic?” And then I launch into this impressive New Yorker-esque discourse… “Oh, you’ve never heard of Loon Magic? Yeah, it’s this fringe bestseller from the 80s, man… And did you know that the loon is the only type of bird to…?” Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge…I’m spouting it off. And then I, like, WIN THE PARTY. And I’m COOL.
(And I’m worthy.)
( (And I’m good enough.) )
This is crazy.
And this is normal.
And the black hole continued…
After checking prices on several editions of the book on Amazon, wondering if $3.99 was too much to pay for shipping on a $0.49 book (and letting it upset me), turning to the Los Angeles Public Library website to learn that the book was available as Reference Only (and thus could not be delivered to my branch), then returning to Amazon for more digging and cursing, I finally snapped out of it.
What the f******ck was I doing? I found a nice, simple, affordable tee at a lovely shop and then instead of enjoying it, I was torturing myself with the threat of buying more stuff to feed my own made-up stories of unworthiness.
We enter these black holes every day and often don’t snap out of them. And when when we buy things in order to satisfy these types of stories, we end up still invalidated — and living in piles of clutter. (Oh, and with drained bank accounts.)
This doesn’t mean the things themselves are bad or wrong. On the contrary, if someone wants to gift me a copy of the probably-glorious Loon Magic, I’ll happily devour it. (Heck, I love animals and photography and learning anything new.) But I had to check myself as to why I felt I needed this particular thing; and so in this situation it was better for me to learn a lesson. If the reasons are less than pure (e.g. trying to prove I’m cool), then I don’t get to feed that. I don’t get to click Buy.
And perhaps, my very-cool friends… neither do you.