When we are young we all dream of what life will be like when we are older. We dream without limitations and declare our desired future careers with whimsy and determination. As a youngster I imagined my future self bouncing from a singing career to working with dolphins and back seamlessly and with perfection. Most adults will humor children in their younger years, but as they get older the time comes to set them straight. This is especially true, I believe, in southern culture.
In southern culture, especially the bible belt which arguably could be the entire south, there is an underlying sense of fear in almost everything we do. The fear of the unknown prevents many southerners from pursuing or even accepting anything outside of our comfort zones, people, careers, and experiences alike. In a town that clung stubbornly to a dying coal industry I was surrounded by poverty and fear. Understandably, it can prove difficult to dream when you're unsure if your family will make their house payment this month.
It was clear to me from a young age that I needed to find a reliable job. Nothing too fancy or required too much brain power, just something that could pay the bills and would be easy to find wherever I settled. My parents both coming from the mental health industry encouraged me to take that route. I knew I enjoyed people and problem solving so off I went in pursuit of a psychology degree. Fear of the unknown kept me from imagining my life as anything but a mental health counselor, except for in my daydreams.
I spent years trying to push down my heart crying out to me as I went about my routines as a counselor. I was unhappy, downright miserable, and spent most of my evenings in tears and anxiety. I turned to blogging as a hobby and quickly discovered my adoration for story telling through writing. I was in love, but it took me another year to finally take myself seriously as a writer.
It's still a process. I'm easily overcome with anxiety of sharing a special part of myself with the world. I have a strong impulse to hide away from the world when overwhelmed, which makes showing up consistently in the public sphere a daunting task. I'm self-conscious about my grammar and ability to communicate effectively due to my far below average small town public school education. It's still not easy for me a year later, but I'm working on it.
What does this long story have to do with getting by? Well, it's easy to just get by. How many people take the easy route in life? How many of us out there take the first job we can when leaving school just to find ourselves stuck in that career 10 years later wondering what happened? I know I spent four years earning a degree and three years working in a field that left me drained and resentful because it felt easier than actually going for it at the time.
What a crazy concept taught from youth ... take a random job that pays the bills, but ultimately leaves us feeling empty at the end of the day is the better route than living life on our own terms. Saving for our retirement our entire lives, but never truly enjoying life today is the responsible way. It is often looked up as reckless or a waste of money to invest in traveling, quitting your shitty day job, or starting a business.
What fuels this culture obsessed with hoarding money while we all simultaneously suffer from crippling debt? The only acceptable path is to go to college, get married, buy a home, and start a family, but we idolize celebrities and public figures that do nothing of the sort. We put so much value in showing our wealth through possessions, but allow these same possessions to become our anchor to lives we dislike.
Money is important in life, however. Money is not the enemy in all of this. We need it to survive. We need food in our stomachs and a warm place to lay our heads. We can't experience all the beauty and experiences that life has to offer if we are fighting for survival. A balance between paying the bills while also pursuing our dreams must exist. If our focus is just making it by, whether that be making it through the miserable work week or eating ramen for every meal so that you can make rent this month, it leaves very little room for the birth of our dreams.
Bringing dreams into life takes a lot of energy and hard work. It's the hardest, most challenging work imaginable, but also the most rewarding. When all of your energy goes towards just making it by there will be nothing left for your dreams. If you're a struggling artist, this may mean taking a better paying job now so that you can fund your dream of living solely from your art one day. If you're working a well-paying job that you hate, break free from the grips of that job and open your mind to other work, maybe even a pay decrease.
The expectations of others must not be allowed to determine YOUR path to YOUR dreams. Take that job that you dream of, even if others would think you're crazy. Get a side job to make ends meet at the moment and don't worry about the peers that may judge. The focus must always be on making that dream real, no matter what we must endure at the moment. Don't let the dream slip away in your efforts to just make it by.
Do not make enemies with money or change in life. Fear is the only enemy.