Pondering what it means to choose what we love over making a living
What would you do if money were no object? I have seen this question posed over the years as a way to find what really rings your bell — that thing that makes your heart sing, the thing that feels like true north.
But face it. We live in a world where too many of us spend our days making money to survive by doing things we aren’t really happy doing. In a capitalist society, all the cogs in the wheel must work if those at the top are to get richer. The cogs don’t get to choose to do what makes their heart sing.
One of the things that is wrong with the world is that very few people are truly happy. Too few are actually getting to do that thing that brings happiness and fulfillment, and actually make a living at it. Therefore, this question is moot for the majority, because money will always be the object — either by choice or by necessity.
Spending the better part of your life at a job you loathe is not conducive to creating happiness. And too few of us have any other alternative. The ones who do are labeled as privileged and that has a negative connotation in this world where so many are struggling just to get by.
I am facing the future without a job and I don’t know how to feel about it. I have chosen to step down from a program that I created and nurtured and built into something I can be proud of. Part of me thinks I must be crazy.
The other part of me wonders what the hell took me so long.
I am a creative trapped in a culture where everyone is expected to pull their weight, earn their keep, do their job. No matter that my temperament is not suited to climbing the ladder — working for someone else and having two weeks a year to have a life of my own — I have been expected to march in lock-step and “be responsible.”
In our society, creative pursuits are seen as “hobbies,” not something you should expect to make a living from. The reason we all know the term “starving artist” is because there are so many of them. These are people who have a burning desire to express themselves in this world and have to choose between selling out to make a living or starving.
I have watched my own kid struggle with this. He has patched together a living with side hustles so he can commit himself full-time to his art, but it has never been easy. He has had many lean and meager times. But he refuses to give up because it is the thing that makes life worth living for him. It is the thing that makes his heart sing — his true north.
There are those that would say it is irresponsible to pursue your dream if you can’t monetize it. There are articles on the web titled “Do What you Love, but Don’t Expect to get Paid for It.” How sad. And, many times it is true.
While there are those who have been able to hang in there long enough to make a living from their art or writing or music, or other passions, there are untold thousands of others who will never make a dime from doing what they love.
I am faced with that possibility as I look ahead to what is next for me. What I want to do is write full-time and see where that will lead me. I want to write even if I never make a dime by doing so. I also want time to garden and cook and read and live my life. So why do I feel so guilty about wanting this? Why is it hard to allow myself to relax into this possibility and just go with it?
The puritan work ethic. If I am not making money then I am not doing my part. If I am not contributing to the household funds, even though I am doing many other things that make life better for those I am responsible to, then I am lazy, entitled and irresponsible.
I am one of those who can consider these questions. While we are far from rich, right now we have enough; if I am no longer bringing in a regular income, will we still be ok? Will we tumble off into the financial abyss? Will pursuing my selfish desires be the thing that puts us in a bind?
Do I have a right to even consider all these options when so many are working 2 and 3 crap jobs just to keep bread on the table? Is it ethical for me to get to stay home and pursue my passion when so many others will NEVER be able to do so?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. The fact that I am asking them points up the dichotomy we live every day as a culture and as a nation. There are those who will live their entire lives with their dreams buried inside them while they toil to stay alive. Then there are those who get to ask the questions.
If I were in charge of the world, everyone would have enough and everyone would get to ponder the question, “What would I do if money were no object?”
In the meantime, I will continue to ponder these questions for myself until I find my own true north. I hope there will come a day when we all will have the opportunity to ask ourselves what would make us happy. And the freedom to pursue our dreams as if money were no object.