How I Found My Brand

by Rebecca A. Watson on April 13, 2015

in Art, beliefs, capitalism, Creative Writing, habits, life, Minneapolis, product placement, reflection

I’ve never been much of a tattoo girl. I mean, I liked them in a superficial way — viewed them more like jewelry really. But since it was jewelry you couldn’t take off, it wasn’t for me.

The long game wasn’t my strong suit, I guess. Two divorces under my belt and loads of unfinished book ideas can attest to that.

[See, I would disagree. Well NOW maybe I’m more committed. Different. But then. Before the move. Before my eyes truly opened? I probably couldn’t even spell commitment.]

I grew up amongst a disease. Easily spread and not viewed with much alarm, it stunk up every corner of my life. The mailman pushed J. Crew and Victoria’s Secret. L.L. Bean propaganda posed for reading material next to the toilet.

Since nothing was thrown out, many items were discontinued.

Since nothing was thrown out, many items  I liked were discontinued.

Although the mall was off limits for hanging out with friends, trips out shopping with the family were standard, even routine. A rotation of replacement was the norm.

New rugs for the new season. Last year’s glassware didn’t work with this year’s dishwasher. Uncomfortable bike seats meant buying another assembled bicycle. Once, a car showed up and was ousted within a month.

None of this bothered me. Most times I benefited. As a teenager, a barely used bike seemed my birthright. As an adult, family rejects furnished my apartments more splendidly than most of my peers’ places.

But something shifted, and I think it started when I was moving out of the house I’d bought hastily during a poor attempt to live a life someone else told me I wanted. Even just taking the bare minimum, I had a full moving truck.

Filled with my sister’s life actually. She’d moved to South Korea, and I inherited everything.

While the bed, salad bowls and Asian privacy screens were convenient at first (I had almost no need to shop to fill my 500 square foot apartment), the papasan chair and countless vases stuffed with peacock feathers became a burden when I wanted to leave. When I craved creating my own life.


Because it would seem no matter where I am, I like to create.

A moving truck across town is one thing — across state lines is quite another. It wasn’t giving away, donating and selling her things and mine that woke me up to my consumption problem. It was my linen closet.

Crammed to the brim with Bath and Bodyworks gifts — soaps, lotions and sprays — I realized I never used the things I had. My mind flashed back to my grandmother’s bathroom — her cabinets crowded with pretty things, her sink surrounded by decorative soaps.

Nothing was used. She saved for that special day that never came.

For eight months I used up the toiletries in my cabinets, washing my clothes with green apple body wash, cleaning the bathroom with Christian Dior shower gel, enlisting my friends help. We all smelled amazing.

So did the bathroom. Seriously.

So did the bathroom. Seriously.

Of course, I emptied out my house too. I could pack two suitcases for my move to California. Suddenly nothing brought a cheery glow to my apartment, and I glimpsed into the reality of my shopping habits.

I couldn’t buy anything after all. I was (and still am) drawn to shiny things. Nothing says class like grocery store jewelry. Brightly colored towels made me want to redecorate a bathroom I’d leave behind in weeks.

At first I thought it was a desire for stability during my reverse nesting period, but concern kept creeping in. Have I always been like this?

I flopped down onto the couch I was trying to sell, needing an escape. I hit play on my laptop, which was also my TV and DVD player, and settled into the movie I’d been obsessing over for months.

The phone beeped at me soon after. It was time to get ready for that reggae show.

[God, I miss the Minneapolis music scene. If you live there, cherish it. Nourish it. It’s a special thing.]

Without a doubt one of the best places on earth for music.

Without a doubt, one of the best places on earth for music.

As I sipped a beer waiting for the band to play, I explained my slow-moving epiphany to Brett.

“It’s just — what is all this shit I own? Baggage. Clutter. A barrier to me doing what I really want.

“And god, I bought a house? Who does that? I swear, no one tells you what all this stuff is: handcuffs. A cage.”

Brett nodded. Here was a guy court ordered not to drink for two years, so in the meantime he was stock piling liquor to create the most epic bar. I wondered if I was wasting my breath.

“Lately there is this line that’s been resonating with me. Have you seen Fight Club?

“Great movie,” he affirmed.

“Exactly. You know when Ed Norton first meets Brad Pitt and they’re in the bar? Brad Pitt’s character is talking about duvets. And then he goes: ‘The things you own end up owning you.’

I paused.

“That’s it. That’s the epiphany. All this shit is keeping me from life. I’m wasting so much energy getting rid of it. And I spent so much to get it.”

Again he nodded, more thoughtfully this time.

“You’re right,” he said. “That is it.”

“What’s it?”

“Your tattoo.”

I’d forgotten he was in a conversation a few weeks prior where I’d said I couldn’t imagine anything important enough to brand onto my body.

I mean really?

I mean really?

But this. He had a point. I never wanted to forget this.

And so it rolled around the mousetrap of my mind, marinating for weeks until finally I made an appointment. When I told friends, the response was always, “Yes,” “Naturally,” and “Of course,” as if they’d seen it for years, and I was only now looking in the mirror.

And as I lay on my side, shirt up, watching Transformers, trying to ignore the pain of a needle hammering into my ribs, I thought, This is right. This is me.

the things you own end up owning you tattoo

And years later, as I walk through the jewelry department of Karstadt, I feel the burn of the ink and smile. It would seem that it gave me a superpower – more mindful consumer choices.

Because, yes, I still purchase things, but I’m happy with what owns me now. A piano, dog toys, an Austrian cowbell. These things reflect me and the life I chose on purpose, not just a life someone else gave me or something I bought to try to forget something else.

This is part of my 2015 goal to write more and differently. If you want to read more posts like this, click here.

Photo Credit: LizCraftTherapyTadson Bussey, Terry Johnston

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