In January of 2020, I decided to start a No-Buy Year. I would only buy the things that I really needed, and I’d use the things I already owned. Then 2020 happened. I was fortunate enough to keep my job, although it was a near thing. In late March, the company I work for cut about a third of its employees, including several members of the team I work with. I’ve been long-term unemployed twice. Both times, it absolutely destroyed me, and it left me with some lasting scars.
For most of 2020, I could not shake the near-constant fear that I would suddenly find myself unemployed yet again. Every technical glitch and VPN slowdown sent a knife into my heart. I tried to make myself feel better, but in some of the worst, most destructive ways. I ate junk food, and I bought stuff. I had money coming in, so I spent it. The world was on fire, there might not be any tomorrow, so why not enjoy today, right? I felt like there was no point to me saving money; I would never be able to save enough to give me lasting security. If something caught my eye on Amazon, I bought it. I got that brief dopamine hit when my order went through, then another dopamine hit when my package arrived — and then I put whatever it was on a shelf. There it sat, collecting dust, alongside all my other things. None of it made me happy for more than a few minutes.
Now it’s January 2021. The world might still end. I might still lose my job. (My year end review was pretty good, though!) The core team of us that remain in my department have been working hard and kicking ass. The world might not end tomorrow, or next week. I am cautiously optimistic. (Very cautiously.)
I decided to try a No-Buy Year again in 2021. I lurk in a No-Buy subreddit, though I mostly scroll on past when I’m browsing Reddit. I looked at the recent posts, and one of the other members had shared a link to a blog post from 2017 called Go Deeper, Not Wider. After I finished giggling over the title, I read the blog post. It’s a good one. I recommend reading it. And I’d like to try implementing the ideas in it, for 2021.
I’m ashamed about how much I bought in 2020, how much I didn’t need and didn’t use. I’m ashamed about the projects I began and didn’t touch for months and months. The hobbies that sat unpracticed, with their supplies gathering dust. The apartment I didn’t clean. The books I bought and didn’t read. The unused Skillshare membership. The unused Adobe Creative Cloud membership. (The year wasn’t a total loss. In November, I turned my apartment’s balcony into a catio — but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, yet to be written…)
When I think about all the time I spent doomscrolling Twitter or clicking around for the next YouTube video to distract me, the shame and the self-loathing that I feel are deep. No amount of rational rebuttals will erase it. Last year hit us all so very hard, I know. It hit so many much harder than it hit me. But, I wasted so much time.
Logically, looking back, I see that the sinkhole was inescapable. 2020 stole my joy. My creative output slowed to a trickle, and then it stopped entirely. I could not write. I could not draw. I barely read. My ukuleles sat in their cases unplayed for months on end. The days blended into each other, the weekends only distinguishable from the work days only by how many hours stretched before me. Hours I had to fill… somehow.
I didn’t fill them with anything enriching or productive, that’s for sure. I didn’t practice ukulele or do voice lessons for months on end in 2020. I’ve started up again, but my singing voice now sounds like shit, and I lost the finger calluses I worked so hard to build up. Difficult songs that I had almost mastered, are now difficult again. Numerous half-finished stories languish in my Google docs. I made tremendous progress on a webcomic in 2019, and then didn’t touch it at all in 2020. I started this blog site in July, in a mid-year flush of new-project enthusiasm, then I wrote one more post in September… and that was all.
There’s no guarantee that 2021 will be better. But, I can approach it in a more constructive way. I’m going to try a No Buy Year again. I’m going to watch what I spend. I’m going to think before I click “Buy.” I’m going to attempt cooking more and getting takeout less. And I’m gonna go deeper this year, rather than wider. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) I’m gonna try sitting still to watch a movie, rather than surfing around YouTube and Twitter. I’m gonna to read the ebooks on my Kindle, and the paperbacks on my shelves, and purchase fewer new books. (Hey, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to purchase any new books.) I’m gonna to practice playing ukulele. I’m gonna attempt to and put out more than one blog post every three months. I’m going to try using the many, many, many art supplies that I’ve hoarded, and not purchase that new, shiny supply that every YouTube artist is unboxing.
I made a list of projects I’ve started but never finished. I’ve begun deep cleaning and decluttering my apartment (a task, which — let’s be honest — will probably take me all year, because I suck ass at housekeeping). I wanted to catalog all my books on LibraryThing. I say wanted, because… I finished it! It’s something I’ve been trying to do since I joined LibraryThing in 2008 (!!). Granted, I’ve Marie Kondo-ed my books down to a much more manageable 300+, and now LibraryThing has an app with a bar code scanner — but I did it. It took me two days. Only two days! Of those 300+ books I cataloged, 69 of them (heh… ) haven’t been read. (I don’t dare count the number of ebooks I just had to buy right now and haven’t opened yet.)
I find a lot of pleasure, and more importantly, a lot of grounding, in finishing things, in checking off boxes on a checklist, in making progress on goals So, this year, I’m gonna try reminding myself of that, rather than chasing that quick-fading spark of excitement from buying and trying something brand new. I went back to keeping a pen-and-paper bullet journal. I missed that. I didn’t do it at all last year, because there didn’t seem to be any point. Every day I’ve been writing a few sentences about what happened that day. I don’t want there to be any more days that blend together.
Today, I got the laundry done before 10am. I wrote this rambly blog post today. I wheeled my grocery cart to CVS, and I bought three cases of flavored seltzer, because I realized that the cans I’d been drinking this past week had expired in December. Of 2019.
Like I said, I’ll be buying what I need. I’m not drinking the rest of that twelve-pack. Those two cans tasted fine, but I’m pretty sure they were cursed. These are all things I can write down, and tasks I can check off my to-do list. Even if I never look back at that page in my bullet journal, I know I did something. That the day signified something. I just want to be present each day. To take steps, big or small, toward finishing my goals and projects. To appreciate the many things I already own, and not diminish them by endlessly, mindlessly buying the next thing, and the next, and the next.
I’m not gonna slay the day. Not every day. Maybe not any day. Well, probably some days. I’ve been known to slay on occasion. But, I am going to try to, ya know, just do the day the simple courtesy of not letting it slip away forever, unremarked upon. Good day, bad day, meh day, busy day, lazy day, weird day, slay day or fail day… each and every day distinct in its own way, however small. For 2021, I wish you and me and all of us a year full of days.
And always check the bottom of your soft drink can.
Just to be sure.