The Student News Site of Redwood High School

Redwood Bark

Redwood Bark

Redwood Bark

Construction students Taylor Bridges, Leila Fraschetti, Emmanuel Medina, Mary Coleman and John Kozubik (left to right) applaud their peers as they speak about their appreciation for their teachers and the resources they were provided.
Photo Essay: Redwood ROP Construction Program celebrates graduates
Isabelle Davis May 23, 2024

  On May 22, the Redwood Regional Occupational Program Construction Technology celebrated the graduation of 19 Redwood students and...

Marin’s Finest Fairways: Reviewing the best public golf courses
Marin’s Finest Fairways: Reviewing the best public golf courses
Hayden Donehower May 23, 2024

Tee up for an adventure in Marin County’s vibrant golf scene! Get ready to explore the fairways, traps and views of the best public golf courses....

Illustration by Cora Champommier
Paying the price of adopt vs. shop
Chloe Jennings May 23, 2024

The American population is becoming increasingly aware of ethical considerations around pets. Buying a pet from a breeder versus adopting a pet...

Shopping for stories: The currency of true happiness

The 21st century is a consumer-driven experience, where material possessions and wealth take center stage. We are constantly bombarded by TV commercials, advertisements and social media that tell us to buy, buy, buy — insisting that buying that new t-shirt or fancy laptop will bring us joy. While we might receive feelings of excitement after a material purchase, is this sentiment long-lasting, or rather a fleeting feeling that tends to diminish as the goods we purchase become obsolete? The inescapable truth is, material goods, despite their glowing facade, cannot buy happiness. Rather, it’s the experiences, the moments that build our character and fill us with memories, that deserve our loyal payment. 

The happiness one may receive after purchasing a material good is shorter lasting than that of an experience. As a financial psychologist Dr. Brad Kolnz noted, material possessions can give a boost to one’s enjoyment but the happiness is fleeting as your brain adjusts to the “new normal”. I think it’s fair to say we have all felt the initial buyer’s high: the joy of knowing something you desired is finally in your possession. However, this feeling ultimately fades. Does wearing those new converse you bought two months ago still make you as happy as when they were fresh and new? I don’t think so. Slowly, as your purchases wear and tear, and you become used to their presence: The happiness they once brought you disappears. 

On the contrary, experiences become imprinted into our minds and can bring a smile thinking about them or sharing the memory with a friend. In fact, a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reaffirms the fact that our experiential purchases can bring us greater pleasure in terms of anticipation, remembrance and in-the-moment enjoyment. This is primarily because we talk more about our experimental purchases — and that in itself brings us more joy.

Some may believe that paying for a short-term experience is less valuable than, for instance, a tangible object like a couch that can last years. However, according to the Atlantic, most of us have a high “hedonic adaptation,” where we begin to lose appreciation for the things we are exposed to, such as that couch we’ve had for many years. In comparison, it’s the fleetingness of experiences, the fact that they exist for a finite amount of time, that makes us savor and appreciate them more.

Illustration by Lauren Olsen

Not only do experiences bring a more enduring sense of happiness, but they become a piece of our identity. Poet Heinrich Heine famously said, “Ask not what I have, but what I am.” Experiences define who we are. It is unquestionable that we are a compilation of all of our experiences: the people we meet, the things we hear and the stories we can tell. Even if an experience brings up negative emotions, we often find ways to bond with others over it, or at least get a good laugh thinking about it. All experiences build on to who we are — whether we simply enjoy it for what it is, or if it changes the way we see and feel about the world.

Whether it be physical or not, possessions, by nature, foster comparisons. There will always be someone with a better phone or a newer car. However, it has been found that while we may compare experiences, we don’t compare them to the same extent as we do our material goods. This discovery was made clear in a Harvard study where people were asked if they’d rather have a high salary that was lower than the ones their peers received or a low salary that was higher than that of their peers. Responses showed that a lot of them weren’t sure. However, when they were asked the same question about the length of their holidays, most people chose a longer holiday, even though it was shorter than that of their peers. This is because it’s challenging to quantify the difference in value between two experiences, so people tend to focus more on their own enjoyment than on comparison.

As I write this, my eyes brush across a pair of jeans on my floor. Two weeks ago I was excited to wear these jeans for the first time, but now, they are just another pair of pants that sit in my closet. In the same minute, my eyes reach the drumstick above my bed that I caught while at a concert for one of my favorite bands. Although the time I spent at the concert was one hour compared to the numerous hours a day I wear those jeans, the joy I feel reminiscing about that moment with my friends and family makes my smile grow wide. The concert was a fleeting moment, and my jeans I can rely on to wear tomorrow. But to me, the happiness in my memories outweighs any outfit I may sport the next day. 

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Erica Block
Erica Block, Layout Editor
Erica is a senior at Redwood High School and is a layout editor for the Bark. She enjoys listening to music, traveling and watching sunsets with her friends.