The Modern Day Gilded Cage
Updated: Mar 25, 2018
Excess is celebrated in the world we live in. People are working hard, breaking their backs all in the race to acquire “stuff”. We are obsessed with the kind of car we drive, the name on the labels of the clothes we wear, people even choose their coffee based on social economic status. We all want to be seen as having more than rather than less than. We spend thousands of dollars beautifying ourselves and the spaces around us. We are slaves to the 9-5 work week because without that income how would we buy more “stuff”?
To be like “a bird in a gilded cage” is to live in luxury but without freedom. We surround ourselves with things we don’t need but are told we have to have to be happy. Society tells us that the more you have the better you are. We are inundated with advertisements online, on TV and in magazines of luxury and excess. We are fed the messaging that if you can’t afford to pay for a $500 purse you are not a person worth knowing. Our self-worth had become intertwined with the quantity of the things we own.
For many people in the world the luxury to afford luxury doesn’t exist. In 2012, 501 million people, or 47 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, lived on $1.90 a day or less, a principal factor in causing widespread hunger. As of 2016, 194.6 million people are undernourished in India. Excess is a First World problem.
I was born in a Third World country and I was taught to never waste anything as a child. My mother didn’t buy me brand name clothes, going out for fast food was a rare treat, I wasn’t even allowed to throw out toothpaste until I was sure it was finished. But I grew up in Canadian society, learning about the North American value of excess. Through the years I have even bought into it: buying clothes and shoes or food in excess, but last year I learned that no matter how gilded the cage the power
of freedom, of authenticity far out weight the trappings meant to keep you locked away.
I was working in an industry that celebrated
excess on a daily basis. I was going to networking parties almost every night, attending free events and I even travelled to Las Vegas, the capital of excess. For a while it was fun, exciting and I felt lucky to be a part of it all but all that glitters isn’t gold. Eventually the shine wore off and what I had discovered about myself I did not like. I had become and unauthentic, disingenuous person that stopped connecting on a human level and had started to look at the world in dollar signs. I was a slave to the money, I was a slave to the stuff, I lost my freedom, I lost myself, I lost a piece of my soul and I had to get out.
Because I valued money more than freedom I became miserable, an empty version of myself. I didn’t like where I was in life I wasn’t really happy but I loved my stuff, I loved getting more stuff with every pay cheque I got which gave me the illusion of happiness and a false sense of security. I had dreams that I had put away and forgotten because I was chasing money instead. I had goals that were never going to be reached as long as my focus was on the “stuff” of life rather than life itself. When you live your life chasing after the next best thing, you can miss the beauty and value that are in the simple things in your life that can’t be quantified by money or the “stuff” it can buy.
For me it’s my friendships, my connection my family and with people that makes me feel free. When I authentically connect with another human being, when I am able to share my story and be myself, crazy warts and all, I feel free. Shedding the chains of the 9-5 work week makes me feel free. Writing to you right now, not worrying if this will touch one life or a million makes me feel free.
The adage goes that money can’t buy you happiness, happiness is something that comes from within not from outside material things. Please don’t get me wrong I am just as guilty: I have four closets in my apartment one dedicated to shoes and I only have two feet so I am not trying to judge. I simply want to convey that if you are obsessing over getting more of the “stuff” that truly doesn’t matter, you are putting your focus and energy into the wrong things. Maybe you have a dream and in order to follow it you have to leave your life of “stuff” behind. If that’s the case think long and hard which path is worth more.
My advice to all of you that are still trapped in your gilded cages: let go. Move forward without fear and trust that whatever the universe had in store for you will be the exact thing you need. Spend more time with your friends and I mean your real friends not the superficial ones you made on your way to getting more “stuff.” Don’t be afraid to be less than because in the struggle to be more than you can lose your way. The door has always been open, a door that can lead to infinite possibilities that go beyond material gain, all you have to do is fly through, leave your gilded cage behind, and see what the world really has to offer. Don’t be defined by what you see online or in a magazine because at the end of the day a $500 Michael Kors purse is just a really expensive tampon holder (perspective bomb).
I know this is easier said than done, it’s not easy to shed that skin of excess but once its stripped away all that will be left is an authentic bird unafraid to fly into a future where quality rules over quantity in all things.