It’s tricky to be a person who genuinely gives a shit. Especially when you’re in the business of selling stuff that people don’t really need. I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between wants and needs–and how a lot of times the two are muddled together deep in the recesses of the cosmic cocktail of life. Our experiences, our present situations, our future ambitions–all sort of dictate the differences between wants and needs–and also educate our ability to discern between them. Not going to go into it here because it’s totally not my point, but it’s an interesting thing to check in with yourself about on a regular basis. And here’s why:
There’s a third thing, possibly nameless, that exists between needs and wants. Or maybe it’s a combination of a need and a want. It’s almost more of a quality of a thing than a thing itself…your survival doesn’t hinge on it, but it’s deeper than just the wanting of a physical thing to fill a
deep emotional void. I love exploring this space in between things–it opens up a whole universe of expansive possibility when you look at it this way. For example: I need people in my life. I want to be happy. The thing in between is finding the quality of people who support my being happy, in any small way. (Btw, I have found them. You, if you’re still reading this, are one of them.)
So how does this relate to being in business? Yesterday some sweet friends came into the shop looking for cases for their iPad and Kindle. I volunteered to make them, and immediately began measuring and cutting rectangles (which is my very least favorite shape.) A stack of fabric sitting on the counter, I found myself thinking about my role in this transaction: giving the people what they want. It’s kind of the golden rule of being in business–right up there with ‘the customer is always right’–and it makes me feel downright dirty. (Not in a good way.) I can churn out iPad case after iPad case–but that feels insincere. I’m just a cog (albeit a pretty harmless one) in the machine.
This internal dialogue is waking up to the fact that my job is to imbue objects, otherwise mass-produced and made by machines or overworked and underpaid hands (kinda resemble that remark), with that third incredibly powerful in-between thing that fills us up in ways that just objects, or just the bare necessities, can never do. I thought about April and Doug, and their need for cases. I thought about April and Doug and their want for them to be special. And then I thought about what’s in between the thing and it’s quality, and that thing is the maker. That thing, in this instance, is me. That sounds a bit self-important, but sometimes I just have to give myself a little credit–it’s motivating–and it reminds me about why I have chosen this path. And it’s not just me, obviously: it’s anyone who is a maker of things. Anyone who gives a shit.
So that’s why it’s important to buy handmade. That’s why it’s awesome to know your maker. That’s why it’s great to think–just for a minute–about the space between the things we think we want and the things we think we need–and open up to the amazing combination of the two, and feel good–instead of guilty–about the work we do, about the roles we play, about the pleasures we seek.
What about you? What do you think you want? And how does that stack up against what you think you need? And do you see a new possibility when you consider the in-between? I’d love to hear about it.