I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately. It’s so subjective, and that’s a frustrating and a beautiful thing. It’s beautiful because it allows us to make choices that would otherwise be considered impractical, unwise, foolhardy, indulgent and feel justified. It’s frustrating because it can cause us stress, guilt, confusion about the choices we make.
A lot of the time we think of value in regards to money. Is this outfit worth it? This cheese? This vacation? This gift? At times, I’ve let value, in relation to money, rule my life. I’ve missed out on experiences with friends, I’ve missed out on wonderful meals, I’ve scrimped and sacrificed and suffered moments of regret (both from spending the money, and from not spending it!). I’ve always been much more willing to spend money on what I could unequivocally consider an experience than a material or fleeing moment investment. Over $4000 backpacking South East Asia with one of my best friends – she twisted my arm a bit and I think we could have done it for less if we’d researched more – but yes please! Twelve dollars for that appetizer that looks super good and that I’d really like to have and that I wish I had while everyone else is eating their delicious appetizer – sorry, can’t justify it when I know the meal I’m ordering will physically satisfy me. And I don’t necessarily think either of these choices is a bad one or a good one – it depends on the value. It takes conscious thought to think about value, and to think of it outside of the monetary cost. Sometimes I’m sure I made the right choice about a meal, other times I recognize that my frugality – on that particular night, for whatever reason, made me feel cheap and envious and dampened the overall experience.
And that’s what value comes down to – experience. And this goes for value that reaches far beyond any monetary concern. It’s about assessing our priorities, our desires, what aids our contentment and joy. Should I feel guilty about spending time researching something online that brings me joy, that will bring a loved one joy (even when I don’t have to figure out a certain gift right now) when there are dishes to be washed or there is work to be done – maybe, maybe not.
What is more valuable: securing extra jobs so I’ll have more available money, money which I may be able to spend to bring more joy to my life, or which may be spent on things that really won’t make a difference, or accepting that the work I’ve secured for the moment will cover my bills and deciding to instead spend what time I have left over to invest in myself and the people around me, even if it’s as simple as taking a bath. It’s not possible to give a definitive answer – at least generally. I think I’m learning though, that for each situation there is an answer that is at least the better one. I think the trick is to take a moment and ask, what do I really value? – and make a decision from there. And when we realize we’ve been making choices that don’t affect our true values (or what we want to be our true values) we need to reassess our decision making.