What would you do if you could do anything?
It’s a question I often ask myself. I am constantly reminded by the art I consume that it’s never too late, that I have options, that I can change my life for the better. Life isn’t a multiple choice test with four possibilities. There are endless paths, innumerable answers. I could do just about anything, but what do I want to do?
And why is it that the sheer mass of those options intimidates me into shrinking back to what is safe and comfortable and common?
When I was growing up, I had a dream to become a writer, but maybe I never really fully understood what that dream meant. Was the simple act of writing enough to fulfill that dream? Did I have to be popular or wealthy or respected? What exactly was I supposed to write about? And in what medium should I write? What was my calling?
On the one hand, I accomplished some things as a writer. I wrote some articles, I published them, I made money from them, I stoked emotions in my audience.
But what then? Where was it supposed to lead? What was it supposed to bring me? Would the mere repetition of this discipline bring me some sort of inner peace or purpose in this life? Were there opportunities to escalate my involvement or shift to something that would have been more successful that I never took?
I’ve struggled with those questions for years and still haven’t developed any concrete answers. On top of the fact that the mere act of writing is oftentimes excruciating for me, I’m left wondering: do I really want to be a writer? What was it about that perceived career of supporting myself off hastily typed words that seemed at one time so romantic to me when looking at it now seems at once both so unattainable and so unnecessary.
There are certainly easier ways to make money. And if it’s such an effort to convince myself to write, is it really my calling? Is it really how I should measure myself, by the standards of a child’s dream, when I have so many other things–a close and affectionate relationship with my wife, a house that we own together, a relatively secure financial future, a comfortable and comparatively easy life?
Am I a failure because I am not the writer I imagined all those years ago, or am I a success, because I am not alone and miserable in a stinking apartment, living off of shitty short stories published in small publications that only snobs and sycophants read? Is there any point in still grasping for that dream, or is it a masochistic effort in self-delusion and consequently future disappointment?
What is the measure of success, and how do we know when we’re winning and when we’re losing? Do we just wake up one day and realize that it’s all wrong, that we took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, or do we eventually come to terms with our lives and shrug off regrets for what-might-have-been as being pointless and trivial?
As I near another birthday, these thoughts haunt me. The ticking away of time and the uncertainty of the path before me. I often wonder: does anyone else feel the way I do? Or are most people content in their current state of being, so long as they have a job, a lover, their family and friends? Does anyone else feel that nagging that so often pulls at me, that restlessness and eagerness for change to the next stage, the following chapter, the unknown path that moves in an opposite direction from the current trajectory?
Are these signs that I need to radically change my life, or are they the stuff of common anxiety and occasional depression?
How do any of us know–really deeply, fully know–what it is we want to be?
I am curious for your thoughts, oh dear anonymous Internet readers. Have you found your calling? How did you get there? How did you know it was the one and only path for you? Or are you still looking or as conflicted and uncertain as I am?