The Cost of Optimism

by Ellen Stuart

I have a running list of things that I have optimistically bought with the thought that I would use them to become a better version of myself. Here are some of those things:

1. 100 Calorie Packs of almonds, which I think will be a handy snack to keep in my desk and reach for when I am actually craving a cinnamon bun or frozen yogurt at 3 p.m. I always get the cinnamon bun. ($7, monthly, plus cost of froyo and cinnamon buns)

2. Miniatures of makeup remover and night cream on my way to a bachelorette party — because, sure, I’m going to stumble back to our hotel room at 4 a.m. and carefully remove my makeup and apply a nourishing vitamin C enriched moisturizer. ($13, including six pack of Gatorade, to share)

3. Blazers. I do not have a job that requires me to wear a blazer, nor do I particularly aspire to have a job that does. Additionally, most blazers make me look like Diane Keaton in Baby Boom. But every fall, I decide this is the year I am going to be the girl who wears blazers. ($8-$50)

4. Fruits and vegetables. I always overbuy, and always end up throwing some into the garbage at the end of the week, because I never learn. (+/- $20 weekly)

5. New, aggressively sparkly drugstore bronzer, because I am going to the beach for the weekend and for some reason think that drinking Narraganset and playing cornhole requires a glow. I lay the blame entirely on articles with titles like, “Be a Goddess This Summer!” ($10)

6. Red wine. I buy a bottle of red every few months because it seems grownup and cool. It’s not — for me, it’s gross. It burns my throat, gives me dry mouth and makes my teeth blue. But you know how when you were a kid and you hated green olives, or gorgonzola cheese? And then one day you liked those things, and were amazed that you’d been missing out for so long? I always kind of hope it’s going to be like that. ($10, assessed quarterly)

7. Middlemarch. I tried, I really did. Good for insomnia. ($12.95)

8. Patterns, fabric, notions, etc. I received a sewing machine as a gift this year, and was pretty sure I was heading into a golden age of sewing all my own clothes, so I purchased accordingly. Thus far I have made exactly one (elastic waist) skirt and some placemats. ($75)

Ellen Stuart lives in Boston and works in communications for a non-profit. She blogs at

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