Monday, December 1, 2008


I ended up giving up Starbucks for a total of thirteen days (almost two weeks) instead of a week. I went yesterday, and although it was nice, it wasn't like I was desperate to go back or anything. I never cheated, and I even went beyond the amount time I originally set! I think this really says something about me and reflects my personality: no matter what I do I always want to go above and beyond. It's funny how something seemingly as simple as not going to Starbucks for a week can reflect my personality, but there you go!

Those thirteen days without Starbucks really did simplify a little corner of my life, like I said before. And I saved money! Even though it's a hackneyed phrase, less is more. I'll probably just go there once or twice a week from now on; also as I've said before, moderation and balance are the key!

However, this process has also taught me that, like the majority of people in the world, I have a subconcious desire to prove myself to others and, in a sense, to please other people. That's not all I think about, and I do like to think for myself, but that subconcious desire (however small) still exists. And I guess most transcendentalists would say that this is something that society has engrained into me entirely too deeply and that I need to rise above. That's a little drastic, though, but you get my point, which is that this project has made me observe several things, good or bad. And that's definitely a good thing: just how many projects teach us about ourselves and about the world?

This is it. I hope you've enjoyed reading about my foray into transcendentalism! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Idealistic vs. Realistic

My last post made me think. It discussed wanting to prove yourself to other people, which is the direct opposite of what transcendentalism dictates, and that it was part of what made me succeed in this endeavor.

This led me to think of something: we're only human. Could transcendentalism ever work exactly as it's stated? You'd think all of our human traits would get in the way. Not that I'm comparing it to Communism, but it's the exact same thing with Communism: thinking idealistically, it would work perfectly and seamlessly, but that doesn't allot for traits that will always come out in humans (such as competition). Transcendentalism encourages people to ignore what other people, society, and preestablished ideas try so hard to instill in us, so competition doesn't exactly go with that because it consists of trying to prove yourself, and it's something that society advertises. But it's something that's inherently human---humans will always have a subconcious need to rise up. Or, in my case (and it's definitely not limited to me), people want to prove themselves, almost to show that they're worthy and that they can be successful too. This isn't always bad; if it helps someone to improve and want to do certain things better, then it could be described as good (there's a fine line, though; I'm just saying that it can be a good thing in the right circumstances).

What do you think? Could transcendentalism ever be carried out seamlessly with all of our human qualities potentially interfering? Feel free to leave comments!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Something to Prove

I've decided that part of why giving up Starbucks was so successful was because I wanted to show that I could do it. I realize that this is ironic because transcendentalism is primarily about living for yourself and formulating your own ideas, and ignoring what society or other people dictate. So my foray into transcendentalism was guided partially by wanting to show everyone that I could do it. I don't exactly know what this means. It could possibly mean that this is the extent to which society has influenced me, that I need approval in order to keep going, in a sense. I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one; in fact, I think everyone else can relate to this. I'm not ashamed of this, either. I've lived in the same society for sixteen years; it would be completely unrealistic to think that society hadn't influenced me at all in this length of time.

Yesterday, my mom asked if I was excited to go to Starbucks again. I said that no, I was indifferent and that it doesn't matter so much anymore after a week. She didn't seem to believe me. And frankly, I don't know if everyone reading this blog will believe me! But it really is weird what a difference a week can make.

In contrast, I also wanted to be successful in order to prove something to myself. I wanted to show myself that I have internal strength and willpower and that I won't crumble easily and that I could succeed the way I thought (hoped?) I would. And I succeeded.

I don't feel ashamed at all that my reason for succeeding while trying out transcendentalism was partially to prove to others that I could succeed. If this was a motivator, then why shun it? It helped me, after all. Besides, I'm not a hardcore transcendentalist; this project was merely an exploration. Even though it didn't exactly follow all of the fundamentals of transcendentalism, it taught me about it, and I think that's what's truly significant in the end.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Maybe less really is more...

Yes, it's Sunday! No, I haven't cheated yet! After tomorrow I could go to Starbucks if I wanted to, but somehow I don't think I will just yet. Of course, I don't want NOT going to Starbucks to become my routine (I had never actually thought of this! Thanks, parkerh, for that comment!). But I really do feel like this little corner of my life has been simplified. Maybe less really is more.

At the beginning of this, I thought I'd be so excited for it to be over so I could go there again. But now, after almost a week, I'm indifferent.

I can't honestly say why Starbucks was important to me. Again, I think it was a matter of habit. And I do love coffee! :) But then I started to think about the money I'm saving (even if it's just gift cards, still...). So I've decided to go about once or twice a week and keep it a treat; this way, not going there won't become a routine but a small part of my life will still remain simplified, which never hurts anyone!

As strange as this may sound, it's not about Starbucks anymore. I'm really beginning to see the bigger picture. We don't really need as much to live as we think; it's society that encourages it. And it's helped me see that conviction is definitely a useful virtue. It's also exposed me to a different perspective because I'd never even heard of transcendentalism before this! Now I get to try it out firsthand. After all, I love gaining new perspectives and viewing things through a new window (so to speak).

For anyone else who has been doing choice #3 of our project, what do you think? Did giving up whatever you chose to give up simplify your life at all? How do you feel about it? Don't hesitate to leave a comment!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Still Going

I'm happy to report that I haven't cheated yet, nor am I missing Starbucks. I'm thinking of extending my Week of No Starbucks to two weeks. I am not completely sure about that yet, but I have entertained the thought.

I have fully realized now that going to Starbucks three or four times a week was a mere habit. Yes, I enjoyed having caffeinated drinks and spending time with friends or doing homework, but it was a habit nontheless. It's alarmingly easy to fall into a routine. This is something transcendentalists despise about society. We live lives of routine, and it's a great deal easier to simply go through the motions and to follow your routine rather than to break it. I think this is why transcendentalists go out into the wilderness or merely wander---this is the antithesis of routine. It's impossible to know what you'll do the next day or where to end up next. In the "real" world, though, we know precisely what we're going to do the next day; we will wake up, go to work or school, come home, go to bed, and repeat it all again day after day after day. I'm not condemning routine; I'm simply making observations. In a way it can be comforting. But it can sometimes get boring. In my Intro to Drama class, we were recently discussing Hamlet. In the pivotal scene of this play, he asks himself the well-known question: "To be or not to be?" Although for most of us it has never become quite that drastic, my teacher observed that at some point in our lives, we have stood in front of the mirror and asked ourselves, "Who am I? Is this all? I'm not happy with my life; will it ever change?" Everyone has probably experienced a moment such as this one. We become temporarily dissatisfied with our lives and how mundane we think they are and we wonder if they'll ever take a different path. The great majority, however, stop at this and resume their lives, no matter how dissatisfied they may be. This is where transcendentalists differ. They make a concious decision to propel their life down a path directly opposite of the one on which they have been walking. Chris McCandless is a shining example of this: he became dissatisfied with his affluent lifestyle and college education. He donated the remainder of his college funds to OXFAM and left to wander the US for two years, later venturing into the Alaskan wilderness and eventually dying there. Many suspect he died peacefully, however: after twenty or so years of living his life the way he was expected to, he was finally living for himself and going down the path that he chose. He broke the routine.

Although merely giving up Starbucks cannot be compared to this, it is a way to break a part of my routine, however small it may be, and I like to think that I'm somewhat better off for it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Third Day

This is the third day of no Starbucks. I can't really say that I'm missing it. I went there last night with my mom, who needed to buy a gift card. In a way, it was a sort of test to see if I could resist the temptation.

I walked in and felt...nothing. I just looked around indifferently and wasn't tempted to abandon my decision at all. I'd already done it for two days and I'd told all these people about it; I wasn't going to give up after two days! I stood firmly.

The barista recognized me. "All coffee-d out for today?" she asked. I smiled and laughed. I didn't exactly want to get into my giving up Starbucks for a week with someone who worked there. Then I thought that maybe this is a sign that this really is something good to do. After all, people that work there recognize me! As if my decision wasn't already firm enough, that made it firmer.

So far, I haven't cheated and I don't plan to. Before this, I'd always been fairly sure that I'm a strong person who sticks to my convictions, but now I'm completely sure. Some would laugh: You're just giving up Starbucks for a week; how can that make you discover anything about yourself? But it has. Simplicity, at least in one aspect of life, is definitely beneficial in order for someone to figure out the fundamentals of themselves. No matter how contradictory it seems, when something is taken away, something is revealed as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Transcendentalists believe that an ideal spiritual state transcends the physical and empirical. They believe this is only realized through intuition and simplicity. Simplicity is used in the barest form of the word: some transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau and Chris McCandless, lived alone in the woods in order to realize this superior state of being.

Welcome to the home of my transcendentalist mini-project. This is what I will be discussing over the next week or so:

"If, like Thoreau, you’re more into pain and suffering, attempt to simplify your life by getting back to life’s essential details. In other words, give up a possession or a few possessions that you regularly use and have significant value to you, but end up cluttering your time. Record the changes made in your life. Be honest – did you cheat and use it occasionally or borrow one from someone else? If so, what does this reveal about you? How do friends and family react to your decision to give these things up? Has it made your life any easier or is this possession really a necessity? Will you continue to limit your use of these things? What have you learned about yourself during this process? Suggestion: Begin by justifying why you chose to give up what you did and why it is so important to you. Then, go on with how the loss of this item has impacted you."

I have decided to give up Starbucks. Although it is not an actual possession, it is a material good that can be bought with money. I had actually decided before we learned about this project (which is ironic!) that I wanted to give up Starbucks for a week, both to save money and to test myself to see if I would really go through with it. Deep down I knew I would, because I consider myself a determined person. And, I surmised, a week without Starbucks would probably save me anywhere from $5-$8. What could be wrong with that?

On Monday of this week, the Week of No Starbucks officially began. I'm proud that I haven't given in yet! I've begun to realize that Starbucks isn't a necessity and that I may have started going there so much simply out of habit. I have an enormous sense of accomplishment: I realize how silly this may sound, but I am happy that I have made this decision and stuck with it. I think that it is times in which we give up something that we tap into our strength, willpower, and discipline. Take, for example, the forty days of Lent for Catholics where most Catholics choose some sort of vice to give up. Junk food, soda, caffeine, TV, video games...the list could continue forever. Although many give in well before the conclusion of these forty days, many do not. It is a test of strength and discipline, and attempts to simplify their lives so they will feel closer to God as they approach Easter. Vegetarians and vegans fall into the same category: they choose to cease eating meat (and, for vegans, any product that comes from or is produced by an animal, including honey). They may have a host of different reasons for this sacrifice, but there is one certainty: it takes strength and conviction not to sneak a slice of bacon once in awhile.

My best friend Robin is a vegetarian, which is probably the reason for her support when I told her about my decision. "Good for you!" she texted encouragingly. After all, she knows exactly what giving something up is like---for much more than a week!

My dad acted the same way. He seemed to encourage it heartily. Although he was probably surprised, he didn't show it. My mom encouraged it heartily as well, but she definitely seemed surprised!

Some people have asked me very simply, "Why?" I could see the wheels turning in their brains---Give up Starbucks? Why? WHY? When I said it was to save money and see whether I could successfully do it, some asked, "How do you even have money for Starbucks in the first place?" I think it's safe to say that they did not really understand.

Even though my decision has been met with a variety of reactions, I am certain that this decision is a good one. I have conviction and a desire to do this, and to me this is all that matters.