I am a 24-year-old woman, and I absolutely love stickers.
Sparkly ones, shiny ones, stickers that look like animals or signs or lists — I love them all, and they’ve unlocked more of my productivity potential than any sane person would have thought possible. Luckily, I’m not sane, and I have access to money that can buy a LOT of stickers at any given time.
But, as it happens, this is not an article about stickers. It’s an article about what those stickers represent. And that is nothing less than your deeper, happiest self.
Here’s how you can get in touch with that self and let it lead you down a better path than the one you’re on now.
Our Guilt Epidemic Is Killing All the Fun in Life
In the modern world, we feel guilty about, well, everything. At least it seems that way, doesn’t it?
To show you what I mean, here’s a brief and by no means comprehensive list of some of the major guilt areas most people experience on a regular basis:
- Not being productive enough;
- Being too productive;
- Not being informed enough about world events;
- Being too focused on (and anxious about) world events;
- Not having enough fun;
- Having too much fun;
- Buying any item of out-of-season produce at the local grocery store;
- Driving a car;
- Being out of poverty in any tangible way;
- Being trapped in poverty in any tangible way;
- Breathing the wrong way.
It’s a minefield out there — and by “out there” I mean normal daily life.
Where did all of this guilt come from? Is it the cost of knowing “too much” about the wider world, or is it a consequence of information overload with no constructive way to use it?
Heck if I know, but this kind of pervasive guilt shouldn’t be normalized.
It’s unhealthy, and it takes away our potential to be joyful, grateful, and happy in a thousand small ways that would, I believe, add up to a better world if we allowed them to flourish.
I’ve taken a new approach to the art of living — I’ve decided to buy the damn stickers. And you know what? Suddenly even the most adult-y parts of my life are really kind of…fun.
I want you to Buy The Damn Stickers (BTDS), too, but first, you’ve got to stop allowing existential guilt to get in your way. Start by recognizing it for what it is — and don't worry, I’ve got you covered on that part, too.
What That Guilt Is Hiding — Perennial Helplessness in a World That Doesn’t Seem to Care
There’s a debate that’s been raging beneath the surface of online discourse for a while now.
Are we over-empathizing, or are we not empathizing enough? At the root of this question seems to be an urgent sense of responsibility for the way all of us collectively feel about the world.
Fortunately, we aren’t a hive mind. Such debates don’t make much sense when you take that realization to heart, and frankly, it isn’t your job to empathize with everyone and everything on the planet. So my advice is, at least for now, to let it go.
Ahh, now doesn’t that feel good?
No one’s asking you to become an emotionless monster who has no cause or value system in life. Quite the contrary. You might have heard the notion that self-care is actually selfless because it opens you up to energy you can use for real, tangible good.
And ultimately, the BTDS philosophy is all about self-care, and it’s all about the truly good things in life — things it seems we’ve forgotten about in our quest to feel less…helpless.
Out of control.
Recognize your existential guilt for what it really is: an escape. That sense of never doing, being, knowing, or giving enough is your brain’s attempt to claw some deeper feeling of control out of itself and put your mental feet onto solid ground again.
Alas, the ground was never solid to begin with, and it’s a shame we’ve fooled ourselves into chasing something as unattainable as control. Control covers up a lot of those “good things” I mentioned earlier… Which brings me to the next point.
Do you even remember what it was like to enjoy yourself?
Good Things Stick to Small Moments: Re-Learning Happiness
When I was about eight years old, my dad built me a playhouse from the ground up.
Looking back, I never appreciated that playhouse for what it was — an undiluted act of love from a father who was happiest when he saw me having fun. And I did have fun in that thing, even when I gave myself splinters or forgot how to open and close the plywood door.
By the time we moved out of our actual house on that property, I had redecorated my playhouse with hundreds and hundreds of shiny, sparkly, colorful stickers. The walls looked like a unicorn had vomited all over them.
They were beautiful. Every time I got a pack of stickers, I’d save it and wait to go stick each sticker to my playhouse wall. It helped me to feel purposeful, and it made me feel less stressed and anxious in a world that was often overwhelming to me.
Then I grew up and learned that there are “adult” ways to do things, and there are non-adult ways to do them. Screw that.
If something makes you happy, even for a moment, it is worthwhile and it is valuable. It’s time to undo the pervasive idea that what brings you visceral joy is measurable, judge-able, or open to criticism of any kind.
If what you are doing is sheltering you from the world outside your heart and head, it is an activity worth engaging in, and you deserve to do it. You deserve to feel safe, and happy, and you deserve to have fun just for the pure sake of it.
These are all good things, and no one should ever make you feel guilty for good things — so don’t let them. Don’t even let yourself make you feel guilty for good things, even if you could/should/ought to be “doing other things.”
What you’re doing is just fine, if you ask me, so Buy The Damn Stickers and put them everywhere.
We Are Children, Adults, and Very Confused Humans All at Once — So Be Kind to All Three of Them
I make good money now, and Amazon, Michaels, and T.J. Maxx all have amazing selections of stickers for sale in every design one could hope for.
I buy those stickers. I buy those damn stickers, and I put them all over my Big Important Planner and my Big Important Meeting notes. I purchase adult coloring books and 120-packs of fancy colored pencils, and I sit down with them at the end (or in the middle) of a hard or easy day and I enjoy the hell out of them.
I play games like Horse Isle 2 or Animal Crossing and I smile, and I can feel the tension easing out of my shoulders bit by bit as the minutes tick by. There was a time when that didn’t happen, though.
At first, the tension remained. Why was I “wasting” time on these things when I could be productive? When I could hustle, accomplish, generate, and do, do, do whatever it would take to be one of those people? The successful, enviable ones.
With time and luck and ADD, I came to realize that those people either don’t exist or are, ultimately, pretty empty beneath their polished exteriors. After all, if they love life so much, why do they have to spend so much time trying to force meaning into each moment that constitutes it?
Maybe loving life means actively refusing to be productive sometimes. Maybe it’s not about consumerism, but sometimes it can be, if buying something you can afford makes you happy. Maybe guilt doesn’t make you a better, more useful person, and maybe it’s not your job to worry about everyone on Earth all the time.
Maybe buying those damn stickers gives you the mental time and space to be a good person when the opportunity arises.
Whatever Your Stickers Are, Consider This Permission to Buy the Damn Things
All of us have Stickers we’ve left behind. You may love cute little plants that fit on your windowsill or those really smooth colored gel-pens that look amazing on lined paper.
Your Stickers could be outdated video games or box-mix brownies or fancy incense you buy in bulk. They could be adorable china tea sets or humorous mugs, notebooks with pretty covers, or books you haven’t read since you were 12 years old.
Maybe your Stickers are actual stickers, bought in bulk and admired for what they are: cheap, pretty little packets of joy that no one has the right to guilt you for loving so darn much.
Whatever your Stickers are, I hope you feel like someone is encouraging you to go out and buy them (or make them, or find them, or collect them off the street). I hope you feel like you have permission to deeply, ecstatically, wastefully enjoy those Stickers to your heart’s content, and I hope you feel so happy with them you feel you might burst.
You don’t have to feel guilty about the act of behind human, being alive.
You don’t need to feel guilty when you don’t think so deeply about everything you do that it becomes a nightmare to even walk through the grocery store.
Just breathe, and take a second to love the You that loves Stickers. They are worth every bit of it.