Thoughts in Grayscale

Newer, Better Toys

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 19:56:38 GMT

Photo: Joshua Boucher

I was shopping a few weeks ago and saw these neat Transformers toys based on the old movies. They were on sale, and I got excited about thinking how much cooler these would look in place of my old movie Transformers. They just looked nice and new and refined. Perfect for the sophisticated adult toy collector.

So I grabbed them, put them in my basket, and went to check out. But they were scanning as “not for sale.” Apparently, the store had locked them to a street date of April 20th. I was totally bummed. Crushed even. All my fantasizing about how much cooler these figures would be as replacements of my old ones had to be put on hold. And even if I did get them later they would probably be more expensive. Also, the guy who came to the self-checkout lane to take the items away treated me like I was stealing, so I left the store feeling kind of beat up emotionally.

Two weeks later I was out on a walk. I went inside another store, and lo-and-behold there were the same figures I was deprived of before! They were all here. They were even cheaper than they were at the last store! I took them to the register…no “do not sell” message or street date. This was awesome! After all of the hassle and disappointment, I got what I wanted. And it was even cheaper!

So I drove home with my prized bounty, fantasizing about how awesome these new figures would be compared to my old ones. I also thought how cool I would look to other people for having these hot new figures. (Yes, collectors sometimes think this way. Yes, it is totally silly.) I go home and settled in and started to dig into my new toys. The toys I had wanted for weeks. The toys I thought were so much better than the ones I already had.

By the time I had opened the first one, my mood was already shifting. It wasn’t just that these things were a disappointment… these things sucked! They looked so awesome in the packaging, but outside of the package they just looked small and cheap. They were nothing like what I had expected. The arm of one figure broke off right after I took it out of the box! Even the cheaper price I paid for these things was not worth it in actuality.

The arm that broke off — Photo: Joshua Boucher

My story is about toys, and it’s silly. But it does speak to our human tendency to want new and better things. We don’t always value what we have. We spend our time thinking and planning and fantasizing about what we could have instead. Dreaming and having a vision is important, but there is a difference.

“The grass is always greener on the other side ” is true even on the other side. It is easy to become discontent when fantasizing. Fantasy cannot compare with reality when we are discouraged or jaded. It is easy to want the shiny new thing, but it’s not always what you expect. And it’s not always worth the price.

Even my silly story with the toys has a deeper context. The whole reason I was excited and fantasizing about these Transformers was that I was trying to avoid processing a very painful situation in my life. It was easier to fixate on these cool new things — things that were replacements for things I already had — than it was to sit in my grief and painful self-realization.

Be thoughtful of where your mind goes. Don’t get caught in the trap of longing for the newer, better, greener. Otherwise, you may end up with more than a pile of lame broken toys you need to return.

Joshua Boucher

Written by Joshua Boucher, a seminary graduate who lives and works in San Francisco. You can find him on Twitter.