Weellll…I won’t go into super dupes detail with my thoughts on this one, mostly because — SPOILER ALERT — Emily Graslie might just be addressing this question in an upcoming HTA video.
But I think it’s important to make a couple quick points:
- No, no, you are not a drone. You make a good salary at a useful job and it does not sound like you’re at all unhappy. This is all fantastic and awesome and you deserve to feel very proud of every bit of it.
- Your friends aren’t necessarily irresponsible.*
- However, I would argue that they are operating under a common misconception (common in America, at least).
- Roughly speaking, this misconception states that if you don’t follow your dreams, you shall be doomed to a life of quiet desperation and you’ll forever regret those bright and beautiful unheeded calls of your youthful heart and also you’ll probably do “terrible things” like live in the suburbs and watch network television and vote for Republicans.**
- And of course “following your dreams” often is taken as meaning going into a specific career. (In my experience, that is frequently a career that is more uncertain and/or creative and/or entrepreneurial.)
This is all, of course, utter silliness.
I absolutely encourage everyone to “pursue their dreams”… but the most important word in that phrase is their. For
somemany people, the dream is to be a stay-at-home dad or mom. Or to have enough money and energy in the evenings to work on their model trains. Or to revolutionize their PTA or learn to salsa dance or have a job that lets them travel or whatever whatever.
Point being, I think it’s unfair (and frankly sort of ridiculous) to assume that we are lesser if our passions are not linked to our paychecks.
I want to emphasize again: I am not saying people shouldn’t pursue their dreams.
But it seems to me that our fears about living "lives of quiet desperation" serve a cautionary function: They’re urging us to find the courage to follow our hearts. That is a noble sentiment, and I believe it. But we should also take care to not dictate what ought to be in another person’s heart in the first place.
* BTW: “Responsible” is a weird word, right? It’s become burdened with a lot of moralistic baggage, and it means so many different things to different people that has become almost meaningless.
** I hope it’s clear that I don’t think these things are necessarily bad. :]
I can relate to this in some ways.
If you had asked me what I wanted to do with my life a couple years ago, I would have, without a second’s hesitation, said “teach at university and, if possible, be a professor”. The job I would have was, then, the most important dream I had for myself, and I imagined that everything else would be great once I had that job.
A couple things changed - I got more and more insight into what the possible costs would be for me to pursue this career (especially in my field of study and where I live / want to live), my depression started rearing its ugly head, and I realized how important some other things are to me. So that today, being a professor and teaching at university is still one of my dreams. But only one of many.
I have found that this dream coexists with the dream of having a job where, when I leave work, I am done for the day and have my head free to think about other things. The dream of being able to choose where I want to live without having only one or two options worldwide at a time. The dream of saying “being in the same area as this person is more important to me than one fixed job”. Or the dream of saying “I have things that I love doing, but neither my (financial) existence nor my self-worth are entirely tied to those things”. (Because I know that I am prone to tying my self-worth to how well I think I am at scholarly stuff, especially because I know I really am good at it. - For more about this, see Mike’s last post. ;) )
So now I have a job that I like, with colleagues I really like, making enough money so I get to spend it on books and travelling and doing cool stuff. And this job is 30 hours a week, which leaves me with enough time to get my depression under control (it’s going really well these days, thanks to therapy and sleep and not as much stress as I used to have and an awesome support network), getting the have-to-do-things done to keep my flat tidy and my fridge stocked, meeting with or talking to my awesome friends, spending time with my awesome partner, and still have enough time and energy to be writing an article for a Tolkien-magazine. Because that last one is also one of my dreams.
It really took some time for me to change my mindset from “but being a professor is my dream, why am I giving up on that” to “I have other dreams, and I can realize more of those if I give up on that one”.
Maybe for most people, job-related dreams are the ones that we see most easily in others, and remember, and assign the most “worth” to. But that doesn’t mean that I have to make that my ultimate goal, just because somebody else doesn’t see all the other dreams I have.