Monday, December 14, 2015

OT: Stuff - how much is enough?

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't posted an ink or fountain pen review in quite a while. I even announced, some time ago, that I was taking a break from the whole thing. I'd reached my burnout point, after more than 4 years of doing this. It's surprising to me that it lasted so long.

You see, I'm "cursed" with both curiosity and the fascination for, well, almost everything. This means that I acquire new hobbies like a stray dog picks up fleas. Which is not as bad as it sounds, obviously. I happen to think curiosity is very healthy, and hobbies, as long as they don't affect others negatively, are generally a good thing. But while some people can stick with 1-2 hobbies all their lives, I am drawn to so many different ones, that sometimes it becomes overwhelming.

You might notice the OT (off-topic) in the title of this post. That's because sometimes I just feel like going off on a tangent, not necessarily bound by the topic of this blog - pens and inks - and this happens to be one of the few places where I can openly express myself on these subjects. So far, I have resisted talking about anything other than pens and inks. I've noticed that other stationery-inclined folks will blog/tweet/instagram on a variety of unrelated subjects but apart from Instagram (where I've been known to post random pictures), I've tried to keep it "clean". Until now, that is. Gradually, I will be changing the format a little, allowing for more diverse topics, but generally still focused on pens and inks. After all, I'm sure most of us have other interests outside the subject of this blog. Hopefully some of these will resonate with you.

I started the fountain pen hobby over 4 years ago, at a point in my life where I realized that I could (and I should) indulge in some of the finer pleasures of life. To be honest, most people don't realize or appreciate the value of a fountain pen, even the most inexpensive one. They will be happy to write with the same wretched 2-cent ballpoint all the way to their grave. Me, I always held fountain pens in high regard. I was fortunate enough to learn how to write in a time and place where fountain pens were mandatory, and words were laid on paper in cursive.

For many years thereafter, for lack of personal resources, I succumbed to the dreadful ballpoint pen. The highlights of my handwriting "career" (or rather my school years) were few and far between, and consisted of short intervals when I managed to get my hands on an ink rollerball pen (one of the best ones, that I still love to this day, is the Pilot Precise V5). When I discovered fountain pens, many, many, years later, in my boundless enthusiasm I started this blog.

Now, many fountain pen enthusiasts are also avid collectors, and they will cheerfully spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on fountain pens. I'm a little different. Being generally thrifty, I don't like to spend a lot of money on stuff that I don't get to use. Sadly (or not), my profession does not require much writing, so I'm not able to make use of more than 2-3 pens at a time (even that is a stretch).

Another side of the hobby is the addiction aspect. Any hobby can turn into an obsession, and I don't want it to become that, for me. There's a little obsessive-compulsiveness in me, that I try to control. I have collected stuff in the past (stamps, for example) but I can't let it control me, because that is a distinct possibility. Some collections can never be completed, and that might end up driving me to distraction, which is not something I want.

You might begin to understand why I haven't, so far, accumulated a vast collection of fountain pens. If I had, most of them would sit unused, after the initial review. At the same time, you might understand why I'm not very keen on spending too much on fountain pens, while fully aware that quality increases with price. More than anything, I prefer value for money, and that's one of the reasons why a TWSBI is such a great bang for your buck.

Same goes for inks. While I enjoy the fantasy of owning shelves upon shelves filled with the best (and most colorful) inks money can buy, the reality is that I consume very little ink in my day-to-day routine. I already regret a lot of my bottled inks, when I could have bought a whole lot of ink samples for the money. Once I discovered ink samples, though, my desire to own a full bottle subsided to almost nothing. I'm convinced that the bottled inks I already own will last me the rest of my life, provided they don't dry out.

And yet, I am still drawn to certain fountain pens, and even more so, to inks I haven't tried yet. Sometimes I toy with the idea of buying just one more pen (that I don't really need). Just the other day I was ready to pull the trigger on two pens I'd wanted for a while. Good thing I paid heed to the rational side of my brain, which hinted I'd be $100 poorer and not necessarily happier.

Pens and inks are just one facet of this desire for more stuff. You might call it materialism and perhaps even despise it, but there's no denying that things - stuff - make a lot of us feel good, if not downright happy.

I mean, think about it. How many of us wished for this or that doodad when they were younger and barely had 2 cents to their name? Later, when you became financially independent, did you satisfy some of those youthful desires? I know I did. One of them was the desire to own a few decent fountain pens. Another (which I actually fulfilled in recent months) was to own a certain style of watch. I know I wanted that type of watch for almost 20 years, but always found it out of my reach. Then came a day when it finally came within reach, and I took the opportunity.

There are many more examples like that. Slowly, I've satisfied a lot of these cravings - relics from a past when I had too little to my name. Interestingly, one of the things that to this day I refuse to dabble into, is Lego. I grew up playing with a few Lego sets but always wanted more. As an adult, I could afford all the Lego I wanted, but I'm staying well away from that particular rabbit hole. I mean, what harm is there in buying a Lego X-Wing? But then I'd also want a TIE Fighter and the holy grail of Lego Star Wars, the Millenium Falcon. And why stop there? There are countless vehicles from the original trilogy that I would love to build and display. I can afford to fantasize about this occasionally, but then reality sets in and forces me to admit that I'd probably get bored of these sets soon after I finished building them.

Backpedaling a little to watches... I'll admit I have a thing for watches. Not smartwatches - I detest those. Not luxury watches either - I can't afford them and they don't appeal to me anyway. What I like is functional watches. I only have 2, but the cheapest one (a Casio PRW-3500 - great watch if you love the outdoors; it saved my bacon twice when I was lost in the mountains) costs more than my most expensive fountain pen. Truth be told, I would love to buy more watches. I wear a watch daily, and I feel naked without it. At the same time, I'm painfully aware that I'm not really the type to wear a new watch every day. Even my outdoors watch gets very infrequent use. So I've decided that I'll keep adding watches I fancy to my Amazon wishlist, but at the same time I'll keep wearing what I already have, until the day when one of them dies, or I decide to sell.

So when do you decide you have enough stuff? I think I've reached (or am very close to) saturation point. In the year 2015 I've tapered off on gadget/doodad/widget purchases. I'm trying to get all the mileage I can from the stuff I already own. Take my phone, for example. In today's fast-moving tech lifestyle, a 2-year phone is ancient. Yet, I decided to squeeze as much as I can from it, for at least another year, or hopefully until it croaks on its own. The phone is as fast as the day I bought it, and apart from a couple of features that new phones have, it runs great. So I'm not gonna change it any time soon.

I'm aware that some people enjoy the minimalist lifestyle. They have very few material possessions, and their homes look sterile. I respect that, I really do. While that's not exactly my cup of tea, I've been thinking lately about ways in which to simplify my own life, first by refraining from buying stuff I don't really need, and second by getting rid of some of the stuff I'm not using anymore.

Slowly, I've been selling some of the things that have been gathering dust. I can tell you that it's kind of eye-opening to receive a fraction of what I paid for that thing, new. I guess it's better than the alternative - which is to hold on to it forever, and not using it.

I'm going to end this here, not before apologizing for the wall of text and my incoherent ramblings on random subjects. It feels, in a way, therapeutic. I wanted to get this off my chest for a while and I think I just did.

For those of you expecting more pen-and-ink related articles, I hope I won't disappoint you, because I have some new material in the works. A keen eye will notice, in the images accompanying this post, a couple of fountain pens that I haven't reviewed yet. One of them is slated to be reviewed very soon, while the second will arrive some time after the new year. Apart from that, I'm still planning to redo some of my old ink reviews. When all that is accomplished, I believe I might be on track for some brand new ink reviews.

So stay tuned and, if you've read this far, thanks for indulging me!

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