The college years are a trying time for most. Many of us are at that halfway point in life. We yearn for both the simplicity and comfort of childhood and for a new and mysterious, but stimulating future.
At the same time, we are enveloped in a constant balancing act with time management, student loans and responsibility. Every decision we make and every dollar we spend has to be accounted for and is now upon our shoulders, since there is a likelihood that our mothers and fathers won’t be thrilled to wipe away our debt.
That’s why, last week, when I passed by a pair of sinfully decadent Christian Dior sunglasses in a department store window display, I walked away.
My student loan, accumulating credit card bills and my embarrassing account balance ran through my head and just like the responsible and rational adult I am becoming, I kept walking right back into that very same department store three days later. And, just as fate would have it, those sexy shades were still there, awaiting their purchase by their proud new owner. They were the last ones in stock. It was meant to be.
Nearly $400 later, the array of emotions and justifications began to set in.
“Well, I had a rough week. I deserve these.”
“They’re a graduation gift to myself,” (I graduate in a year, mind you).
Guilt, pleasure, excitement, regret, anxiety, bliss; I guess it’s the rush of adrenaline that keeps me coming back for more.
You see, I’ve always had a shopping problem; at least that’s what my friends have called it. I don’t see it as being a problem but more of a lifestyle, rather.
Some people collect stamps, others waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on real estate. You can’t wear a house! And they say I’m impractical!
Well, for me, I collect anything that comes from a boutique, the mall or a world-renowned fashion designer. Call me superficial, but clothes and accessories are my hobby.
It started back in high school, where I assume most addictions start: when rebellious kids try to find their niche and a place where they belong. Some gravitate towards drugs, others towards rock music. I gravitated toward Guess jeans.
From that point on I was hooked, and in the years that followed, my habit snowballed into a full blown compulsion.
My measly allowance was not sufficient enough to support my spending behavior, so I fell into an even deeper predicament and got myself a job!
I must have been the youngest and probably the only one among my group of friends who actually chose to enter the workforce without parental influence. My friends all thought I was crazy. But they would have deemed me even crazier had they seen all the havoc I could wreak in a shopping plaza within a mere hour’s time. It was total retail gluttony.
I kept this under wraps for a very long time, however. I knew I had hit rock bottom when, after a day of compulsive over spending, I resorted to hiding the shopping bags in my car until my parents fell asleep. In the middle of the night, I would tiptoe outside and bring in each colorful, glossy bag one at a time, extra cautious so they wouldn’t crinkle or crunch on the way to my room.
Once I was safe and sound and my secret still veiled, I would begin my post-shopping routine. First, I’d take out each item and neatly lay it on my bed one right next to the other. Then, I’d stand back, take a deep breath and admire my purchases for a minute or two before placing each of them into my bursting walk-in closet. It was sick.
This maniacal obsession followed me relentlessly into my college years. Now, I was juggling high textbook prices, tuition costs and an even more fervent shopping problem.
I found myself using any leftover student loan money I had on Chanel makeup, Hermes gloves, Coach purses, Juicy Couture velour hoodies and more Christian Dior sunglasses.
One day, the proverbial can of worms finally burst open when I lied, like many times before, to my significant other and told him I had to work when he asked (begged) me to finally spend some time with him.
He’d been taking up a lot of my valuable shopping time recently and Nordstrom’s new spring line had already been in stores for weeks! I was going to fashionably fall behind!
He had also been having his suspicions for a while that maybe I was downplaying my “little” problem, but I always managed to change the subject.
So, that day I instead headed to the mall, my home away from home, my safe haven, my love.
I had maxed-out my time there and had accumulated a plethora of goods I was having trouble holding in my tired grasp.
Then, there was my boyfriend, the trusting and patient guy who believed me when I told him I was “working.” He was standing right outside the Gap, with a look of pity, shock and disbelief smeared across his kind face. I was exposed. I was caught.
I won’t go into the grisly details of the aftermath of my lies. I won’t detail how I fell into deeper debt, lost my car and my boyfriend. I won’t explain how, before my guy left me, he made me call my parents and admit that I had used my loan money on material possessions. I won’t talk about the physical and emotional turmoil that going through shopping detox feels like.
Things eventually got better though, after a very long and arduous road. I found a way to curb my appetite for the most up-to-date fashion wear and have become a pretty good bargain shopper. I have learned that if I do want to spoil myself once in a great while, I must relinquish another need in my life. I am still paying off my obligations and getting my life back on track.
I wouldn’t say I lost everything, but things certainly have been put into perspective. For example, living a modest lifestyle is just fine for me now. I don’t need a big home and two walk-in closets to feel complete. I have enough designer duds, 193 pairs of heels and 428 different accessories to show for my shady past. I’ve learned to accept that they may not be the latest style, but I still have nice things and I’m fine with that.
Besides, those Dior glasses and the Gucci purse really compliment the box I am living in.