When I was young, I dreamed about a lot of things. I wanted to be a writer, writing things that genuinely changed people’s lives. I wanted to have children and be a father to them like Ted Arroway without the collapse. I wanted to visit lots of different parts of the world and see how people actually lived, beyond the tourist areas.
When I got a little older, I had to make some choices. I could be “financially responsible” and start preparing for some big dreams … or I could take the easy path and bust out the credit cards. I looked down both paths… and then I started buying stuff. I filled my home with DVDs and books and electronic equipment and other stuff I didn’t really need – and that I already scarcely remember.
I started feeling the regrets before I was even twenty eight years old. I had a pile of debts that pretty much locked me into my current career path. I had almost no time to become a writer. I had a child, but I wasn’t spending the time with him that I wanted because the need for more money fueled my activities. I obsessed over work (even to the point of interrupting planned family events) and when work was done, I played hard, too.
Soon, I began to realize I was trading my dreams for a pile of stuff. I was swapping all of the things I truly wanted to do for some minor experiences that didn’t really stick with me. I was broke every week, but the reason I was broke wasn’t because I was chasing my dreams – it was because I was buying a mountain of scarcely-played DVDs and video games and spending my spare time dumping my money into sports cards and other ludicrously expensive “hobbies” such as stocking my home with the latest electronic goodies.
I gave these things up. I made some changes in my life. I stopped spending on the silly things and started “spending” on the big dreams. I spent my spare time practicing my writing and spending time with my children, and “spent” my money socking it away in savings so that it could help me during the lean times of chasing my dreams.
When I’m an old man, I won’t regret not buying that flat panel television or that Lexus. What I might regret is the thought that I spent my money on stuff instead of on opportunities – opportunities to follow my creative dreams, opportunities to spend time with my children when they’re young, and opportunities to stop and smell the roses instead of running forever and ever on a treadmill without end.
For me, it was really a simple choice.
What’s your choice?