Of all the malls near us, I would say Jordan Creek is by far my favorite. They have the best variety of stores in my opinion, and plus I just think the overall architecture/layout of their mall is pristine and inviting. I've had good memories over the years of going shopping there with my friends and with my mom and sometimes even my grandma. And I've also noticed that every time I go there, it puts me in this weird sort of contemplative mood, maybe because there's always a bunch of people of all kinds, so it just makes me wonder about them and their stories. I actually wrote more in depth about that here.
Last month I got to go to the mall (twice!) with my mom. We went the first time as a late birthday gift, and then the second time we had to return a pair of jeans. And I realized, especially after the first time when we went and spent a full day there, that there are definitely some deep observations you can make while shopping that really says something about us as a society and as people. When I went to list out all these things, I realized that they all flow perfectly into each other, too, almost as a direct correlation.
The prices are insane.
Okay, you might be asking how this has to do with anything "deep" and that this is just my opinion, which you might be right on that part at least. But is it just me, or have prices for clothes seem to have steadily gone up? Or have I just been living under a rock...? I don't know, I just remember that when I was younger, Under Armour hoodies were all the rage and "the" thing to get, and they were regarded as expensive. I can't even remember how much they cost—wasn't it somewhere from $40 to $60? Well, then you grow up and you see they're making simple tees and blouses for that kind of money, and jeans/dress pants are STARTING at $60 (there are some stores that have them for less...I've had to look for them though, but that could also be due to the fact that I read fashion blogs). Or now to buy one bra, that alone is almost $60?
I actually do think this leads deeper than it sounds, though. In business class, we learned about standards of living and how the United States has one of the highest. I'm by no means an expert on these things, but it makes me wonder if that really says something about us as a spoiled nation. Regardless, it's not too hard to see that titles (including clothing stores) and money and THINGS mean everything to so many people. I mean, when you go to a clothing store like Express, and say you want to buy one outfit for work or school: a nice blouse, dress pants, and maybe a pair of plain flats. That would EASILY cost you over $100. For ONE outfit. I seriously feel like I could go to the mall, spend $200, and feel like I haven't bought much of anything in the long run because that's how fast things add up. Granted, it all depends on where you buy things, but this is definitely a trend I'm seeing in a lot of fashion stores, and even if people can't buy from those places, it seems to be an unwritten rule that they should be able to, that that's the thing to do to establish yourself.
I've also witnessed this through reading fashion blogs. I usually don't have anything against them, but sometimes I even wonder about those. This sounds rude, and it's none of my business, but after seeing them post daily about outfits where one shirt could cost maybe $200 alone, and as far as I can see they don't have a prestigious money-making job, it really begs the question: where the HECK do you get this?!
But people are obsessed with stuff. And I like clothes just as much as anybody else and maybe then some, but I'm also content after I come home from a day at the mall and don't feel the need to go on "splurges" and "sprees" every dang day like I KNOW many people do. And there IS a psychological reason for that, despite what they may tell you. I'll address it later in this post, but this all leads me to...
People are just filling voids.
If you go to the mall, it can be so overwhelming. Take one of my favorite stores Express for example. We had to go there first on our trip to the mall because I had gotten a pair of dress pants that didn't fit and needed to be returned. I looked around for awhile of course—it IS my favorite store—and honestly, it kind of made me frazzled. Why? There was just so much stuff. Everywhere. It was claustrophobic and, even more than that, plain overwhelming. It's like, where do you look first? The walls are filled with stuff, and so are the center places of the stores, which is why there's hardly no place to walk and especially if the mall is busy. I honestly try to make the rounds at my favorite stores, but sometimes I just feel like I'm walking in circles and haven't even looked at anything because that's how overwhelming it can be.
Anyway, there is a multitude of clothes to the point where you don't even know where to start. But more than that, don't even get me started on the advertisements and all the sales that are specifically designed to sell more stuff, to lure you in some other way. And if you go the mall, you see people falling for it alllll the time. And look, it's not necessarily BAD to do that; I love taking advantage of sales. I just got these expensive sandals that were half off so they actually ended up being priced like "normal." But again, I'm sure you can tell that there's a difference between people who spend time at the mall to hang out or just to look around and go when they have some extra money to spend. And then there's the people who go all of the time as a means of escape, who shop like their life depends on it and believe in their mind that they NEED these things, and spend money on credit cards and rack up the bills on stuff they may want but don't need. And it's not bad to buy things you want, but to these types of people, in their minds, it is a need. It's like they can't go without buying things; it's become a means of gratification that they have to have in order to be happy.
But it won't make you happy. All it is is simply a temporary high. And there's tons of common things like that, that people think, oh this is the meaning of life!!! Take travel, for example. Again, travel? Not a bad thing. I have my own yearnings to travel and explore one day, but just like with shopping, there are people who do this like their life depends on it. In fact, it's almost becoming a cliche pattern I keep seeing. It's (typically) these teen or young girls who are in college, or young and around that age, and they try to feign it as oh, it's just my zest for life, or travel is what brings me happiness, and life is made through travel. And I completely disagree with all of those things. If you MUST travel to be happy, it's not your longing for adventure, it's your need for escape and a better reality. If you have deep longings in your heart that aren't being met by other things, then traveling to the opposite side of the world isn't going to change that. I understand that travel is fun, but ANYTHING can be turned into an addiction—especially hobbies, if you're not careful. Because when you feel like you have to spend your whole life traveling and can't be content unless you've gone here, been there, etc.? That's a mental problem, a happiness problem.
And I don't say that to be mean. I know this, because I've had to experience it myself. I have times where I get so discontent, and guess what happens? I think I NEED to travel or NEED to go shopping. When I'm trusting God and turning to Him with my desires, I still want to travel and shop, but it's not that restless, get me the heck out of here now sort of feeling. Because that goes much deeper, it goes to your soul, and your mind, and who you are psychologically as a person. You're not born with the need to travel or shop 24/7. Neither of those are basic human needs (which is why it irritates me when people act like these are the ways you find happiness). You're born into sin, which can result in a restlessness that makes your heart learn to go find something—anything—to satisfy it. And that's fine if you're going to God and the healthy things He's put in your life. It turns into an addiction when you place all of those expectations on buying things, going here, or attending this sporting event, etc.
That's a serious, major problem that I have seen so many people fall into. And then you wonder why this country has such insane mental health rates. I mean, that's really ironic, isn't it? We have more than any nation in the world, and yet we're the most unhappy. We have too many toys, plain and simple. Too many distractions. And I'm not advocating that we take all of that away—I'm beyond grateful for all of the wonderful opportunities we have. But humans are fragile. If we don't know God, and don't have strong convictions and moral values, it's all too easy to slide into the slope of discontentment, which this nation is very much so doing. Cue the spoiled brat mentality. That's why it all comes down to being grateful for what you have and learning that you DO NOT NEED TO TRAVEL, SHOP, OR DO ANYTHING to be happy EXCEPT KNOW JESUS (John 6:35; John 10:10). If you look at those two verses, it will show you that God is not by any means against your happiness. But there is a deep issue when that happiness is not met through Him and you look to the THINGS instead of the One who gives the things.
And thankfully, my mom and I have realized this. And oh, that doesn't mean we're perfectly happy every day, or that we never have days where we want more. But by knowing God over the years, you start realizing that once you start straying, something is missing. And then you're like, oh yeah, that's Him. Because the things He gives us—while good and things we should be thankful for—are still never designed to take His place. And at the end of the day, Mom and I are DONE with shopping. There is a point where it's just old, you need a break. It won't meet your happiness needs forever. That's why you enjoy it for what it is, never letting it take God—and God alone's place.
Also, this is completely not serious unless you're as serious about consuming all of the junk food you possibly can like me: I've already blogged about Chick-fil-A before and how I'd never had them before, and prior to that blog post I never ate there again because we have none nearby. But I got to at the mall! It was even better than I remembered. There was also this ice cream place near the food court that served some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted in my life. And trust me, I would know, I've only consumed ~16495 and counting of different ice cream related things!
I also thought this could tie in well with this post: I never did recap what it was like going to an Iowa State Cyclones football game. Well, it was truly unlike anything I'd seen before. Maybe I need to get out more, but really, I've never seen so many people like that compacted into one area, everyone literally ecstatic over a football game. And it also shocked me by the demographics, too. You would think there would be mostly college students, since it is Iowa State, and there were a lot of them. But there was also an overwhelming number of older people. Like I would bet people way into their forties, fifties, sixties, and maybe even then some. And they are just as hardcore as the college students...
And again, don't tell me that those reasons aren't directly linked to the ones I outlined up above. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the whole entertainment industry is just flooded with people trying to live out their false dreamlands. And again, I have nothing against going to a football game. I really enjoyed the game. I've always liked the Cyclones, so it was a fun experience. But it just makes you wonder, when you see forty to fifty some year olds tailgating, partying and drinking like they're 21... It's like, really, when is it time to grow up?
But I did enjoy the game. I would go again, but I would probably wait until the weather was decent, because when we went, it was so cold it hurt.
All of this is to say that none of these things on their own are bad. I love to watch movies, to go shopping, to travel, and do all those things. A lot. But there have been times where I've caught myself just doing or wanting those things because I want to escape from some reality, either circumstantial or mental. And I've even seen how futile my attempts at doing that have been—you'd save yourself a lot of heartache if you just went to God first, and then those things are put in their proper context and can be enjoyed that much more. He even says to delight yourself in Him, and then He'll give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). But that's also not a checklist. So many people treat that as like, okay let's go to church on Sunday and get trashed on Monday, etc. TRULY and AUTHENTICALLY delight yourself in God because of WHO HE IS and HOW HE DESERVES IT, and THEN the desires get added. Because trust me, if you're just treating it as a checklist and the relationship isn't in your heart, I promise you won't be happy, and you won't get the desires of your heart, either. Oh, you might try, but it won't work—the depravity will still be there.
I think that's something we need to be more conscious about as a society. People say to leave God out of it, but it's like, where has leaving Him out gotten us? A whole bunch of bad things skyrocketing. There is such a thing as having too much stuff where it can harm you mentally. Look at celebrities. Very rarely do I hear of them having happy lives. They might say they are, but big whoop, anyone can say they're happy when they're really dying on the inside. Seriously, because then look at how most of them end up: in rehab, in jail, or dead, because they committed suicide or engaged in too much partying, etc. And that really is unfortunate. You would think people like them would be happy, right? Wrong. Humans aren't designed for as much stuff as we have, I honestly believe that. Like social media? The more I think about it, I just think that's a psychological mess we've gotten ourselves into by creating that, and we'll probably, well, already are, seeing consequences for it already. That's why God warns about money so much, too, and pursuing riches (1 Timothy 6:10). It's not that having money is bad. It's just that most people get so caught up in pursuing it or using it that they completely lose themselves in it, and it's the same with ALL of these things.
Above all, knowing Jesus and relying on Him alone is the key. We have to know Jesus authentically so that when we do get off track, He's there to hold us accountable. We need Him, and we weren't designed to live without Him, I don't care what anyone else says. One look at our culture tells you all you need to know about how well leaving Him out has gotten us. I agree wholeheartedly with 2 Chronicles 7:14: it's time for us to humble ourselves and get real, and turn back to the One who we were designed to live for.