A co-worker and I had a chat yesterday about what we would choose to do if we could do anything we wanted to. It’s your typical hypothetical situation: a long-lost great aunt has passed away and left you enough money to do anything you want to do for the rest of your life. What do you do?
Sure, there are simple answers. Go on vacations. Put money aside for your kids to go to college. Maybe buy a new car or new house or fix up the ones you’ve already got. But what would you really do? After the newness of it all had worn off and you’d been on vacations and bought your toys. You still wake up every day, and you have to fill the hours between waking up and going to sleep, so how do you fill them?
As I’ve thought about it, a number of things occurred to me. First, I don’t think I’d move. At least not right away. I really like my house. Sure, it’s got a few issues, but I’ve lived in enough houses of various shapes and sizes to realize they all have issues. And while having a large house seems like it would be fun, I know that in practice, it just turns into your house. The place you live. And you take it for granted. (Then again, if money were really no object, I guess I could hire maids and gardeners to take care of all the chores. But let’s assume my long lost great aunt wasn’t Lady Violet, shall we?)
I also don’t think I’d buy a new car. I’m happy with the one I have, so why bother switching? As I’ve gotten raises over the years, Denisa and I haven’t really increased most of our base expenses. We buy better food to eat, and I pay more on board games than Is healthy, but by and large we’ve kept things level, and I like that. It leaves more money to do fun things with, so I think it highly likely I’d keep doing that, even with an independent income source. I really like the feeling of not having any large debts out there I have to worry about, and no commitments to fulfill financially.
So what would I do for a job? I know I wouldn’t be able to just do nothing. It would drive me crazy. (How do I know this? Because when I’m on vacation, I end up filling my days with stuff to do. Chores. Goals. I stay busy, or I get antsy. Doing nothing is only fun when there’s plenty of other things I need to do.)
If money were truly no object, I think I’d write every day. In fact, I know I would. Not all day every day. I’d probably go for about 6 hours a day, give or take, including research time. I’d go to conferences and conventions now and then, and I’d take my family with me when I could. That would be enough to keep me occupied and not feel like a slacker, and give me the freedom to roam the world at will. That would be pretty much ideal.
So once you think of things in those terms, what do you do about it?
A few years ago, a friend of mine quit the comfort of his 9-5 job in favor of the uncertainty of the life of a musician. He had about a year or two of savings built up. Enough so that he knew he had some cushion to try to live the dream before reality brought him back to earth. Why did he do it? Because what he wanted to do every day was be a musician, not sit in a cubicle working on computers. Has it worked for him? It seems like it has to me. I mean, he’s not independently wealthy, but he’s still a full time musician, and he hasn’t had to go back to a 9-5 job yet.
Could I do that? Just quit my job and dive into writing? I suppose I could . . . But there are a few key differences. First and foremost, he’s single, and I have a family. I need to be able to provide for my wife and kids. Health insurance, car insurance, and a steady paycheck let that happen. I like the security of knowing I’m saving money for retirement, and that Denisa and I have a plan that will let us help the kids through college. That security is really valuable to me, to the point that I’m willing to compromise on some things.
And really, working at the library is hardly much of a compromise. It’s rewarding and challenging, and I feel like it helps contribute to society. I enjoy working with the students and helping them on their way in life. My second choice behind “itinerant author” would be “librarian,” so I’m already living the backup plan to the dream. Happiness-wise, I’m at like an 8 right now. Am I willing to risk that 8 in hopes of getting a 9 or a 10?
But I also don’t give up the dream. So instead of risking things, I keep working behind the scenes to try and make that dream job a reality. Writing 1,000 words a day. Going to a few conferences a year. How many books would I have to sell to switch from Track B to Track A? A lot of books. Enough to let me and my family continue living as we are now, with no added pressure. The thought of writing so that I can live isn’t one that appeals to me. I like to write because it’s fun and I enjoy it. Putting my livelihood on the line without knowing that I can be reasonably sure it won’t all crash to pieces? No thanks.
So after all that thinking, I ended up realizing that (barring the death of that wealthy great aunt I know nothing about), I’m doing pretty much what I’d be doing if I could choose anything to do.
Which isn’t half bad, you know?
How about you? If money were no object, what would you do? And is there a way you can start working toward that somehow?