Sometimes you stumble across something–a fragment from a poem or song, or a glimpse at a work of art–that stops you dead in your tracks because it so perfectly reflects your state of mind. It happened to me this week while I was reading and came across the following:
“The prospect of his future life stretched before him like a sentence; not a prison sentence, but a long-winded sentence with a lot of unnecessary subordinate clauses…”
From Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Lately I’ve been rapidly cycling through the extremes of hope, fear, and despair. I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. The possibilities are endless! The potential for failure is immense! Is there even anything I can do to change things without making everything worse? Should I just keep plugging along, meandering aimlessly, until eventually time runs out?
The truth is, there are a lot of aspects of my life that I can’t control, but there are many that I can. The burden lies in making a choice about the kind of life I want to live–the risky “follow your dreams” sort of life, or the reliable but disappointing one–and working every day to make that life the best it can be. Is there a middle ground? I think there is, but not at my current job. At least, not without the immense amount of guilt I would feel over not giving my job my full dedication.
I can see one version of life where I play it safe and am very happy. What I’d have to give up? A little freedom and a lot of dreams. This is all a part of growing up and coming to terms with my limitations–logical; inevitable. But this is the sort of sacrifice that might eat away at me from the inside out–I haven’t been able to kill the dream yet, even with my incongruous lifestyle. So I could just go for it. I’d take a huge paycut, but I’d find a way to make things work… Right?
But so much hangs in the balance.
You can’t build a life around a dream, can you? You have to crunch the numbers, research the facts, follow the rules. You have to be logical and do what makes sense. Don’t you?
And so I’ve been thinking in circles and questioning everything. I’ve questioned myself to the core–Who do I think I am to deserve something more? How crazy am I to think I could accomplish the improbable? I’ve studied statistics! Am I a bad person for being unhappy? Am I selfish? Demanding? Unrealistic?
Yes, maybe. But when you can’t kill the dream, you have to find another way. You have to live with it, and not against it.
I know I’m not the only one struggling with this kind of decision. If you’ve found a way to reconcile this dilemma, please share! How did you make your life sentence a meaningful one, and not a long, tangled thing full of false starts and repetitions, droning on monotonously until it drifts off…?