Mario Villalobos

Learning

I’m listening to Lana del Rey’s newest album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, an artist and album I really enjoy. I purchased the album on Friday, but I didn’t get around to listening to it until today. I’m a fan. White Dress in particular is great.

Last week, I read Cal Newport’s newest book, A World Without Email, and to me, I wasn’t the right audience for it. I was for his previous two books, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, books that have heavily inspired me these last few years. But in A World Without Email, I felt like he tried a bit too hard to justify his thesis instead of doubling down on it. Seriously, just get rid of email, don’t replace it with Trello or Asana or something else—just get rid of it. I only get emails from my financial institutions, invoices and tracking numbers from orders I purchase, and temporary login links for websites I visit. I’m sure I get more, but those are the ones I remember getting this past week. Because of this, I’ve turned off my email notifications, quieting my life that much more. This week I also read through Viet Thanh Nguyen’s sequel to The Sympathizer, The Committed, a sharply funny and sometimes brutal book that I deeply enjoyed.

I purchased both of these books from Amazon earlier this month, and I have two conflicting emotions about this. For one, I feel regret for choosing Amazon over a company like Bookshop. I started my search on Bookshop, but when I saw that they didn’t offer free shipping, I caved in and purchased them from Amazon instead. I have thoughts about this, but the second emotion I feel is pleasure because I love reading and holding and smelling physical books. I love the feel of the paper, its texture and character, the way each book has its own typeset and weight and, again, character. I love all of it. I’ve been reading more and more eBooks in apps like Libby, and my next two books will be read on it, but there really is something unique about physical books that bring me so much joy.

On Monday, I received my newest Trade Coffee coffee beans, and when I unpacked them and put them in my cupboards, I thought about money, where I choose to spend it, and why. Like I said, I felt regret in choosing Amazon over Bookshop, but to be fair to myself, I knew quitting Amazon would be tough. My Prime membership doesn’t expire until November, after all. But earlier in the day, I read through this article in the New Yorker about independent bookstores, and I felt motivated to truly get loose from Amazon’s grip and spend money at companies I admire.

Companies like Peak Design and American Giant, two companies I do adore. Earlier this week, I bought the 30L version of the Everyday Backpack to somewhat replace my 20L one, and I bought a comfortable and absolutely gorgeous black hoodie from American Giant. Both companies have absolutely honorable mission statements, and I feel like I’m helping them accomplish their goals. I budgeted some of the rest of my relief money toward other areas in my life that needed it, and I spent the rest toward paying down both my car and student loans.

I’m learning. Life will be boring if I ever stop learning. I’m learning to both treat myself and pay down my debt so I can live a more free life. I had this thought earlier today, one where I felt like the last 10 years or so have been lived within a prison, and my sentence is up in 6-9 months, as soon as I pay off the last of my debt. Will I feel free once my true net worth is positive? I’m not sure, but I feel like I’ve let my debt define me, and I’ve said no to life more because of it.

I know it’s strange that I started this entry talking about the things I’ve spent money on and now I’m talking about my debt and how it feels like it has shackled me for a decade. Humans are complicated, humans are contradictory, and humans aren’t bothered by cognitive dissonance. It is what it is, and really, would anyone want it any other way?

In the New Yorker article I linked earlier—the one that convinced me to renew my subscription after taking a few years off—Danny Caine, the subject of the article and owner of the Raven bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, wrote a book called How to Resist Amazon and Why. I purchased it directly from their website. It should arrive on Thursday, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and learn something new.