Recently, I got into it with a friend. I mean, it was more of a heated discussion that carried over multiple days and forms of social media, but for the sake of drama, we’ll put the emphasis on “heated.”
He argued that, if given a partner who made unlimited money, most people would choose to never work again and just do the things they love. I, stubborn as always, argued that while endless funds would make it easier, I wouldn’t give up my career goals to settle into a cushy life of luxury.
He also argued that one must be logical and frugal with financial and career decisions in the mid-20’s to early-30’s if they wanted to provide for a family. I argued that, while raising a family would become more difficult, one should take advantage of their relative youth and health and pursue the things that bring them joy at this age.
It was all hypothetical and we both made legitimate points. Neither of us knows (or will likely ever know) what to do with a blank check. Chances are, based on our personalities and backgrounds, we’ll both do just fine with our respective adventuring, saving and family-raising.
But it did introduce an interesting question: If you had no financial concerns in the world (say, if you won the Powerball tonight…), what would you do? Would you actually give a big ol’ pelvic thrust to the rest of the world and buy an island in the Carribean? Or would you continue to work hard to attain a lifelong goal?
For example, if your dream was to be a singer, would winning the lottery stop you in your tracks? Or would you use the money to invest in lessons, improve your craft and enhance your chances at success?
If you had a child before reaching your goal (a common tale, I’m sure, and a massive accomplishment in and of itself), would you settle for taking up once-monthly karaoke with your friends as a hobby, or find ways to continue to professionally pursue that singing career? Even if you had the lottery winnings?
It’s the type of scenario that would likely split respondents down the middle. Luckily, there isn’t really a wrong answer. Some people prefer to live comfortably and give their current or future families the best situation possible, even at the cost of pausing or ending the pursuit of personal dreams. Others (like yours truly) feel that they’d regret not continuing to chase it, even if it meant working longer, harder hours to stay afloat.
And that’s something I took out of my little argument; it’s your life. Live it as you please. As long as you’re not ruining the lives of others, you do you.
You want to chase a profession that only a select few succeed at? Pour your heart into it. You want to be practical and set yourself and your family up for success? Give it everything you’ve got. You want to be polyamorous or move to Amsterdam on a whim or build a hostel in Sydney? Stop convincing yourself you can’t or shouldn’t.
It’s just my personal belief that we have one life to live. That we are extremely lucky to be living that life. And that not making the most out of that life is a crime.
When all is said and done, many people will look back on their lives and be proud of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren they’ve raised. Many will be proud of their personal accomplishments and memorable experiences. Many will be proud of both. But it’s the old man with a laundry list of regrets – missed opportunities, forfeited dreams, time wasted – who I don’t want to become.
This past weekend, I was riding the San Francisco-bound BART train on which a passenger was shot dead. The hectic scene unfolded a few cars away from mine, and the resulting aftermath was both frustrating and scary. Whatever the motive of the shooter or whatever the relationship between him and the victim, it brought one thing clearly back into focus: that shit can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
My advice, in this one chance at life you get, is to tirelessly chase your grandest dreams, furiously pursue memorable adventures and always keep creating meaningful relationships.
Money is nice and jobs make us feel secure, but neither will help you feel truly fulfilled. I want to be a homeowner, husband and father someday, preferably after I’ve achieved some personal goals. Many people want to be all those things right now and are perfectly fine turning their dreams into hobbies to make that happen. Both options are great, as long as it’s what you want.
Me? I’m just gonna keep writing, adventuring and improving important relationships. Those are the things that make me happy, even if they take me astray of the most responsible path. I look forward to the challenge of making a family and owning a home, but I also don’t think humans only exist to carry on the race, no matter how noble that act may be.
You truly only live once, so make it matter.