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It's Our Turn: Instant gratification fades quickly but memories linger

It happens to the best of us. You walk into a store not expecting to buy anything, until you stumble across something you now find yourself unable to live without. Magically, it has found its way into the cart, and you’re heading to the cash register without a second thought.

Instant gratification is ever-present in our world and seems to have infiltrated every aspect of our lives. After all, why bother spending hours making a home cooked meal when a fast food restaurant can do it in a matter of minutes?

The same can be said for our shopping habits. The concept of thinking over a purchase before heading to the check-out line has been replaced with impulse buying: Buy now, think later.

The problem with buying on a whim is that it tends to transform into buy now, regret later. While at first it may seem worth spending a little – or a lot of – extra money, eventually the allure the purchase once possessed vanishes, and the regret of your decision begins to sink in.

Instant gratification may be rewarding in the moment, but it never seems to last as long as anticipated. Sometimes it takes more than things you can buy in a store to leave you with a warm feeling inside.

Let’s not forget that the best things in life are not always things. Making memories that you’re able to look back at years later and still smile or laugh at is far more important than trying to accumulate a collection of the latest gadgets.

Over the holidays my sister and I were looking back at our childhood. As we traded memories and laughed at our old antics, I realized that those are the things I remember: not the objects, but the moments.

I couldn’t tell you a single toy I received at my 6th birthday party, but I doubt I will ever forget that it was that day when our plastic basketball hoop was blown over by the wind and hit me in the head. Nor will I forget that after she’d had a good laugh, my sister was the one who did everything she could think of to cheer me up and finally convinced me that the giant bandage on my forehead “wasn’t that noticeable.”

At the time, all I cared about was what was inside the perfectly wrapped presents my friends had brought me. Now, I realize that what was truly important that day didn’t come in a box with a bow on it; it came from a comforting sister, and parents who were determined not to let a “little” scratch ruin my birthday.

It would seem the problem is that instant gratification and memories don’t necessarily coincide. You can’t consciously make memories instantly, and you can’t reminisce over them until years later. Often, you don’t even realize the moments that will have the largest impact on you when they are happening.

In response to this epiphany, I have tried my best to be less prone to give in to instant gratification, but admittedly it is far easier said than done.

Even so, it can be helpful to keep in mind that the thing you were convinced you couldn’t live without is now sitting in the back of a closet, but the memories you’ve made will stay with you for the rest of your life.

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.