When The Mercer Hotel in New York sent me a Happy New Year card last week, it brought a smile to my face.
My first thought was the fact they'd never sent me a card before when I was a good customer. Now I'm not a customer they must be chasing me to become one again, are times hard(er)? It was however, pleasant to be transported back to a glamorous time. A time when my friend and I would often say 'Ah the glamour of it all' as we were flown in by helicopter to the Monza F1 grand prix. When a shop was in order, off it was to New York or Milan. Selfridges was just a lunch time browse. I recalled popping into Gucci on Bond Street to help a colleague choose a belt and how I casually bought a bag without it denting my salary.
I haven't stayed at The Mercer since 2007 and in those three years I've become a make do, currently penniless soon to be awarded a Master's degree person, contemplating doing a Ph.D. I envisage a scenario where someone calls out 'is there a doctor' in a public place and I say 'yes' but of course I would only be a doctor in fashion so the most help I'd be is to advice the person in need of medical assistance not be caught short in that dreadful outfit again. Hardly a way to make friends and impress people!
Yet I used to be impressed by money and wealth. I was never wealthy enough to be considered rich. I was never stopped at Heathrow after a long weekend in NYC as I was hardly worth the effort, in fact my poor suitcase looked dreadful after a mauling by the US customs when I went to Philadelphia. Now I can't afford to buy a new one. What impressed my about money was the lifestyle you could lead. How it bought an ease. People did things for you, like open the door and when I stayed at The Mercer I could skip across to Prada and browse and they'd show me things give me coffee or champagne even though I rarely bought. It was the experience. However I became inured of it all to dull the sheer boredom and stress that was my job. This year will be the sixth year of my escape from corporate hell.
Working in a corporate is not hell to all. We all have different purposes and likes. This is a good thing we enjoy different things, but for me I felt like a caged animal. Shopping, wine, restaurants, travel etc. were a lifestyle addiction to compensate for the fact I hated my job. I couldn't articulate my dislike because it wasn't the companies fault, nor my colleagues, even the ones I viewed as idiots, no it was me. I was never cut out for it. I remember driving to work some days with the rest of the commuters and thinking what if we all just go home and refuse to pay our mortgages. This was not what others were thinking.
Being content is much underrated. Happiness is the one that gets all the focus - finding happiness is the holy grail. I prefer being content. Contentment means even when you feel a bit down you don't have any pressure. When you feel content you can look but not be envious; you can want but shrug your shoulders and still smile. You value the toothless person who asks you the time as much as business person who buys you coffee when you have a meeting in Carluccios.
I actually gave up my marketing job nearly six years ago and thanks to a generous payout and my work as a stylist I had time and money on my side for a while. Which again to some extent I squandered. Now in my content (but not smug) state I can safely say you won't find contentment in perfection (home, job, setting the dinner table just so), but you will find it by not setting your standards too high. You won't find contentment by using your credit card on an item you haven't got cash for, but if you manage on your income, paying bills first, having a contingency fund you'll feel easier. Planning for a pension will drive you up the wall regardless given the systematic abuse of pension funds by bankers et al.
Contentment is not a Chanel 2.55 bag*, it is appreciation of your life and well being - which doesn't mean to say luxury doesn't have its place but pleasure should be found in the humdrum of existence as well. If we could somehow all of us across the world find contentment then compassion will heal more suffering and question the defining drive of materialistic gain that cost lives. In the developing world poverty and disease kill but in the developed world a sense of worth costs countless lives. Last week many of us in the blogging community were shocked by news of a suicide that has immense implications for a family. Whilst money isn't the long term answer to such a matter in the short term it will provided food and sustenance. If you have a moment do read this post.
So apologies to The Mercer, what with Haiti and fellow bloggers in need, I'm afraid I'll keep the memories for now.
* I still want one. I'll freely admit to this shallow desire but it doesn't define me and it won't make me happy- well just a smidgen!