In a discussion with friends over yesterday’s Love Letters* from boston.com (a woman who’s boyfriend is going to travel for several months; should she quit the job, follow her heart and the man she loves on a fantastic trip?), our debate basically came down to two opposing sides: practicality (stay with the job, it’s secure in a rough economy, who knows if you’ll have anything when you get from costly gallivanting) or living the dream (worry about the consequences later, go on this trip that you’ll never regret having gone on).
When I was a teenager with a head full of big dreams, I always thought that my choice in such a situation would be to live the dream no matter what. Well, fifteen-odd years, a handful of low-paying jobs, one school loan, one car loan, and some credit card debt later, the appeal of practicality has made itself rampantly apparent to me! I understand now, as one only can after finally becoming an adult, that you have to plan for the future, secure yourself, and recognize that choices always have risks and consequences.
As I’ve gotten older, though, there’s another aspect of that dichotomy that I’ve learned as well: you don’t always have to choose. It is in fact possible to both live the dream and be practical.
For me, I want to both be a published author and a professional game designer. While I could quit my job and throw myself fulltime into one or both of these things, it would be a very poor decision to do so. Oh, sure, JK Rowling
penned her magnum opus of Harry Potter while jobless, a single mom, and sitting at a local coffee shop. Now she’s a kajillionaire. Talk about the artist’s dream! But let’s face it, that’s a one in not-quite-a-million shot (if it was, it couldn’t possibly fail). For the rest of us, there’s the slightly less glamorous way around: sacrificing little things, maybe even medium things, putting in the time and the hard work, and continuing to shoot for the big thing we really want. Making small, achievable goals along the way so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task before you. Take the chances you can take, find a balance that works for you, and understand that there may come times when that balance needs to be upset and tilt more one way than the other. Really, that’s what making it to any goal worth getting is about: mastering the balancing act of what you want and need now with what you want and need later. It’s tricky, because that’s actually four things and not two. This balance is complicated.
There’s no shame in choosing either right-out, either. But there are consequences of both. Mostly personal ones–constantly taking risks and never planning ahead will get you in an uncomfortable situation eventually, and never taking ANY risks will likely lead to a lot of frustration. No one can be one thing all the time; no one can be perfectly balanced all the time. But you can have both, if you work hard at it.
Is it always fun? No. Is it always immediately rewarding? No. But is it worth it in the end? Well, I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m still pretty sure it will be.
(*Check out my good friend Serp’s weekly Sense and Serpability for strongly-worded opinions on Love Letters!)