The agony of being older and wiser.

I’ve been thinking I need to buy a new laptop. I have two laptops at home already, but they are so old that they are painfully slow to use with Windows XP. Running Linux on them helps to speed them up a bit so long as I either use a very old distro or one so pared down that finding drivers for the wireless cards is akin to pulling fingernails out with pliers. The battery life on both of them is next to nothing and one of them I loaned out for a bit and the person, who shall not be named, put a boot up password on it which they can no longer recall. Being that it’s a Dell Latitude CPi the only method I’ve found for resetting the damned thing is to rip it apart and short out a particular chip, which is something I’ve just not been motivated to do despite the fact that it’s arguably the faster of the two laptops. I tried calling Dell, but seeing as I’m like the fourth person to own this laptop they’re not willing to give me a master password that would let me in because I am not the original owner. So I’m thinking I need to buy a new laptop. Something with wireless and perhaps a webcam built-in. Ideally I’d like to plunk down the cash for a good gaming laptop, but I don’t really have the cash to plunk down. I have a little money left over from the Pell grant I got for school and school is part of the reason I’m thinking of getting one so I’ve been leaning towards using that, but Anne would prefer I put the left over money in our savings account. I could finance something, but the budget is tight as it is so adding another monthly bill is probably not a good idea.

It’s probably one of the signs that I’ve gotten older and wiser that I’m sitting around debating the issue at all. There’s a certainly level of ‘want’ behind all of this thinking, but there’s also a small level of justifiable ‘need’ to factor in. Or at least there’s a small amount of ‘need’ that I’ve been able to rationalize to myself. It says something that I can recognize the fact that I’m rationalizing at all. The truth is I’ve survived school thus far without a laptop and could probably continue to do so, but it would make life a bit easier if I had one. Not to mention all the other uses I could put it to. That’s not really a ‘need’ in the true sense of the word, though. I don’t really NEED a laptop to do well in school. And then there’s the fact that there are a dozen other things I could use the money for such as car repairs. It all makes for a bit of a mental maelstrom roaring away in my head that’s really kind of pointless because deep down I know I’m not going to buy a laptop anytime soon.

Being older and wiser kind of sucks at times. When I was younger I would’ve impulsively used the money to buy myself a laptop and rationalized it away as being a good idea because I’m in college and, thusly, have a need for it. That’s ignoring the fact that you couldn’t get a laptop for less than a grand back when I was younger; unlike today where you can get them for as little as $300 putting them tantalizingly within reach. Now my older, wiser self will eventually convince my impulsive side that it’s not a good idea and I don’t really need it and eventually the impulses will weaken and die pathetically in the dark recesses of my mind.

It seems to me that I was a lot happier back when I was more impulsive. Sure I sometimes got myself into trouble, but there’s a certain joy to be had in convincing yourself you really need that new… thing… and then buying it. Stupid? Probably, but happy. In comparison there’s no joy in being a responsible adult. Yes it’s absolutely the right thing to do to save the money and put it towards things that are more important, but I get no joy out of that. Smart? Yes, but not happy. To make things even worse when I finally do get in a position where I have the money to spend and Anne agrees it’s a good idea to do so I still end up feeling guilty for doing it and thus not as happy as I should be.

Like when I finally got to buy myself a PS3. I really wanted a PS3 for a long time and Anne had been putting a little money aside every month so I could eventually get one and after receiving some birthday money to add to the total I was finally able to buy one. We went to the store and I stood there in front of the box on the shelf and just agonized endlessly over the decision to actually buy it. My brain went nuts listing off all the other shit I should be spending the money on. I should have been happy as hell, but I was wracked with guilt. It confused the hell out of Anne because she expected me to be bouncing off the walls in joy and here I was at points on the verge of tears over it. I almost didn’t buy one. I feel much better about it these days because it’s been useful as more than just a game machine what with the Blu-Ray and the ability to stream media from my PC, but I still feel the occasional pang of guilt when I play it.

I use to love to go window shopping at the mall. As I walked along I’d fantasize about the stuff I saw that I’d like to buy someday and often that would be enough to curb any impulses to spend money I might have had. These days I can’t stand window shopping. It just depresses me because I know there’s about 15 billion other things I’ll have to spend the money on before I can even begin to fantasize about spending money on the stuff that I really want. I’m way more responsible than I used to be, but I’m less happy as a result.

Actually, let me restate that: I’m more responsible than I used to be, but my life has fewer moments of pure unadulterated joy as a result. Perhaps that’s a sign of how shallow I am as a person that I used to take so much pleasure from buying stuff, but I miss those carefree moments. Shopping used to be fun, now it’s just another chore I’d rather not think about.

7 thoughts on “The agony of being older and wiser.

  1. First, this story reminded me of an episode of That 70s Show where Red got drunk and bought a canoe.  Kelso decided it would be fun to ride in the canoe while it is being pulled by a car…of course he hurt himself horribly doing it.  Red later said that Kelso was the most stupid one of the kids…yet he has the most fun out of all of them because he is impulsive and doesn’t hold back.

    Of course you would have been happier as a kid because you haven’t learned to look toward the future for more than a few weeks at a time generally.

    However, if you and your wife agree to buying something then just buy it and try not to feel guilty.  What is the use is working your ass off if you can’t enjoy something every now and again.  I am not really saying putting up the cash for a gaming laptop…we would like one of those ourselves…but you might could swing something a little less expensive that will still do what you need it to do.

    The PS3 was a gift in a lot of ways…you had bday money with which to buy you something you WANTED not NEEDED…and your wife and saved a little money to put towards it too…so that was a gift as well…a gift towards being patient.  Don’t even regret or feel guilty for gifts!

    My point is…if you are able…treat your self now and again (and of course scrimp and save to make up for it) else you WILL be an unhappy adult.

    We don’t have a lot of cash either.  We are a one income family so we have to have a really tight budget on everything…but we do treat ourselves now and again like the surround sound system we bought with a Xmas money that was given to us and the most recent purchase of DH’s new flatscreen monitor.  He didn’t NEED it, but it did make him happy (and still does whenever he plays games!).  Though we won’t be spending any more money any time soon on frivolous things, these things are enough for now and we can enjoy our life.

    If you are a hard working and save money forever and haven’t treated yourself in a while…then do it and don’t feel guilty.  You can’t take it with you when you die and bill collector’s always take payments. 


  2. If you want to get some more life out of your old laptops, you can fix the batteries by carefully prying open the battery casing and simply replacing the battery cells (using soldering iron). I did this to my four year old laptop with a completely dead NiMH battery and now the laptop can run on battery for longer than it ever did when it was new. Though the larger capacity cells I used seem to confuse the battery logic, so it will run for 15 minutes past the point where it shows 0% battery level. The cost of the cells was 60-80 € or about half of that of a new battery.

  3. Les, if you’re looking for a decent laptop for a small price, might I recommend the Asus EEE pc? It’s a solid state drive with between 4g and a whole lot more. The most you’ll pay for one new is 500 dollars (or less on ebay).

    Now, I should warn you, it comes with Linux pre-installed, but I’ve been asked by my husband (he posts here occasionally under his own name) to tell you that you can put Ubuntu on them and, there are some that come with Windows XP as well.

    Seriously, it’s the laptop I use. It’s a wonderful little unit.

  4. Being that it’s a Dell Latitude CPi the only method I’ve found for resetting the damned thing is to rip it apart and short out a particular chip, which is something I’ve just not been motivated to do despite the fact that it’s arguably the faster of the two laptops

    Do it, think of the satisfaction you will get if you do manage to get it working.

  5. I drove my parents nuts telling them that I needed a new laptop and I couldn’t decide what kind I wanted.  They bought me one for Christmas I think just to shut me up.  I don’t think I can count on that kind of reaction if I started bitching about my car though smile

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