I am exiting my credit card years—the years of my late twenties: that is, 2018 to 2022, in which I acquired an impressive collection of credit cards, and have slowly begun to dismantle the collection.
I think it’s funny that I am doing so, because to enter into the system of credit cards is sort of like a conversion—you put faith in a new way of doing things, and are initiated into the club of people who also do things this way. You are rewarded for your good behavior with perks like airline miles and free trips to see your family or to Barcelona. These are material rewards bought by putting your faith in a system that is not real, that is not material, that is made up. It is another creative illusion of many of humanity’s creative illusions.
In many ways, it is a return to a younger version of myself: the version of myself who bought less because I had less. I was this version of myself for 26 years of my life and I remember feeling no impediment to pursuing truth, goodness, or beauty while in this stage of life. I remember feeling no less happy or empowered than I was with a credit card. I do not think the credit card helped or hindered on my journey of self-becoming nor did it necessarily give or take away community. Perhaps the credit card is not so important, then, as we often imagine it to be. Perhaps we can do without it.
I remember the moment I deleted my Facebook, I felt quite similar to that. It’s one of those things that I spent many years not having—again, formative and happy years—and actually once it was gone, I found that I could continue on the journey of forming myself and seeking happiness without it. I also gained an Instagram about a year before I gained my first credit card. And the Instagram account was fun, enjoyable, and interesting until it wasn’t. When the novelty wore off and it became an addiction, I set the Instagram account aside. And by “aside” I mean I deleted it entirely, since I am generally incapable of living in the mean.
I mock myself for being a person of extremes, but I think actually trying something and then letting it go is living in the mean. It is nice to discover what one’s life is like with Facebook, Instagram, or a Delta SkyMiles card—but none of these things are necessary to live a good life. They are all somewhat interesting in their own way, fun to use, and good to play with for a time. But it’s good to remind yourself that none of these things are necessary, and, eventually, you can carry on without them.
Some things may be lost, some things may become more inconvenient, but if you managed to be happy without them, as all of us did at some point, you can be happy with them, and happy without them again. I think the problem with these systems that makes it difficult to remember that you can be happy without them is that each of them presents itself to you as a necessity. Their inner logic says: you must always have me to flourish. And that just isn’t the case.