May 30, 2011 2 Comments
Welcome to the second installment of “Shit You Don’t Admit,” a three-part series about all the things everyone feels, but no one admits. My second admission: I’m too chickenshit to go after my dreams.
When I cry during reality TV shows like American Idol, The Voice or Project Runway, I’m crying because the contestants have, against all odds, had the cajones to go after their dreams and I have not. I’m getting teary-eyed because I know the fear of instability I carry around that keeps me from risking anything significant to get what I want.
I’m amazed by the sheer number of people I know personally who don’t share my tolerance for misery. I laud their ability to step back from financial stability to find their own joy instead. I am impressed by the ones I know and love and I kinda hate the ones who I think have been successful without deserving it. But really that’s just me being angry with myself.
I grew up in a relatively stable home financially but my parents constantly griped about money. There was also constant threat of divorce and this terrified me. It seemed clear to me that my parents were barely holding it together to fund one household and that financing two households would have broken them. I imagined moving from my nice middle class, suburban neighbourhood to some ghetto in the city and going to school with the rough kids that I played against in basketball. I wanted no part of that. I didn’t want to be like Julia Stiles in that dance movie where she moves to the inner city and has to learn to get by on less.
I was hard up for cash during university like everyone else, but by age 30 I was doing a bit better than average. I remember that I didn’t care what I did for a living as long as it afforded me the ability to get most of what I wanted when I wanted it (thankfully I didn’t want Louis Vuitton bags or Hermes scarves). But that ability has kept me in a job I hate for years. My unwillingness to take a pay cut rendered me inert.
I had a performance review once during which my boss said to me that “there are people who do what they love and there are people who do what they do so they can do what they love. And there’s no shame in being the latter.” I don’t know if she was saying that for me as much as for herself, but I repeated those words like an anthem for years. Mostly I was trying to convince myself that this job was enough for me long past the point when it became clear that it wasn’t.
If I’m brutally honest I have to add that I’ve often been completely unwilling to work consistently at anything that didn’t offer a guaranteed outcome. Which is kind of the very definition of chasing any dream. There will be much failure, much rejection and then hopefully, someday, success. I’ve refused to bite that particular bullet and tend to cry foul once I’ve experienced a failure or a couple rejections. I am loath to call myself lazy, but I think, secretly, I probably am. I mean I watch a shitload of TV and isn’t that generally a hallmark of the lazy?
I was really gung ho around the end of last year about chasing my dreams, but each passing month has brought greater clarity about that idea and what it really entails. I’m starting to see less of the glitter of it and more of the hard work involved, even if it’s the just the hard work of giving up the level of comfort and stability I’ve enjoyed for so long.