I think I need to read “Sense and Sensibility.”
I’ve never read it. But I know the story. I know that it’s famous for illuminating the importance of balance between practicality and passion. I’ve been trying to find a way to articulate the beauty I’m learning to see in that balance, but I’m not sure I can really convey it, not in a way that would sound remotely convincing to my former self. Maybe reading the book would help. Or maybe this is one of those lessons that you have to learn by experience.
You see, eight years ago I entered college a flaming idealist. I believed that real satisfaction was only possible in the realization of my wildest dreams. I pitied those who settled for practical career paths, those who pursued degrees and positions that seemed void of imagination for reasons like “flexible hours” or “promising job markets.” To me, there was no greater tragedy than my music-loving friend from high school applying to chiropractic school instead of trying to become a rock star, no turn-off like a first date who said he was pre-dental. Nobody—I told myself snobbishly—is passionate about teeth.
I majored in journalism with visions of grandeur—late nights and deadlines, front-page stories and quippy columns, press passes, front lines, syndication, glory. I wanted to write about important issues in in-depth ways. I wanted to write things that mattered. For millions. Without restriction. I didn’t think about the costs.
It wasn’t until I graduated and got in the trenches that I realized the fantastical elements of my “wildest dream.” I learned about the pressure to cater to advertisers, to write to the tastes of editors, to get clicks. I learned that you have to earn the right to quippy columns and important issues, but often that means playing politics or giving up other things life has to offer. I learned that idealism without work and sacrifice is hollow and that sometimes, what you have to give up to achieve your goals might chip away at the satisfaction you’re searching for. I learned that your passions can sprawl above and beyond and outside work altogether. I learned that financial stability and job security are only factors of little importance to people who have always enjoyed them and people who are content to live on the edge, people who don’t have anyone relying them, people who don’t want anyone relying on them. I learned that I am none of those people.
I learned that my dream—my real dream—looked different than I thought. I learned that sensibility without sense just wasn’t worth dreaming about. And I learned that dreams that made room for both were beautiful. Shockingly beautiful. Those dreams are too wise and whole to pity, too seasoned and refined to do anything but celebrate.
Want to know my new dream?
I want to be a “useful sort of person”—another Jane Austen phrase. I want to spend my time at work impacting individual lives for the better in direct, personal, meaningful ways.
I want to have financial stability. Job security. Location flexibility. Work-life balance. I want my work to fit with my passions, including my passion for freedom in all its forms.
I want to work in a field that encourages autonomy and innovation. I want to be challenged and supported in problem-solving and creating.
I want to live above the pressure to allow my work to limit my passions. I want to exist outside the dogma that if what you do to pay the bills doesn’t fill every hole in your being, you’re selling out in some way.
I want to write. I will always want to write. But I also want to empower others to find their voices, to express themselves, to communicate with the world, to connect with others.
And as much as I want to play this one close to the chest, to hold back from sharing too much in case life happens and things change, I also want to let people in on my own evolution. Life might happen. Things might change, but today and really for some time now, I’ve known that …
I want to become a Speech Language Pathologist, specializing in narrative speech, meaning construction and the social aspects of communication.
And it is a beautiful dream.
Listening to: William Fitzsimmons, “Well Enough”