Stop. Just stop!

You don’t get to have it all.

I feel like I’ve been having this conversation in a variety of venues lately. Perhaps it’s because a lot of reflection happens this time of year, or the fact that I do have a lot of friends in transition in various parts of their lives—from relationships to jobs to schooling. No matter the reason, I keep coming back to the unfortunate expectation that we’ve all come to live by in the last few generations. The idea that we can have everything we want. That an inability to do everything well is a failing, or that the inability of the universe to give us everything we want is somehow unfair. This has become increasingly more common in the last few years with the sacrifices I’ve made and that those I’ve cared about have made due to the shift in the economy. I’ve also seen a lot of discussion about whether or not things will “improve” or if this is in fact the “new normal” (which is a phrase I want to stab people in the face for using).

You don’t have time for a job, a relationship, and all the extended intellectual and artistic opportunities and pursuits you want. Or at least, somewhere in there you’re not going to be doing one of those things as well. I have a dozen different creative/craft activities that I’d love to spend more time doing—but I don’t often have the energy after a day at work to dive into those things. But I try not to fuss too much about it, the choice is putting less creative energy into my work.

We can’t all live and work and play in the same place. Some of us do have to have long commutes via car or bus, it’s the sacrifice we make for lifestyle. I’ve got a coworker that takes the bus to and from Maple Valley (near where my parents live), five days a week. That’s at least an hour and a half. Each way. Every day. It’s crazy, and I believe in transit. But that’s where he chose to live for his family, and so that’s the sacrifice he’s made. In my case, when I was looking for a new job five years ago, I very intentionally eliminated every opportunity that meant a commute across Lake Washington. And certainly in these last two years I’ve seen more than one friend make a huge geographic move to be able to remain employed in this current climate—sometimes to the detriment of family relationships.

Something’s got to give. You can’t be the perfect employee, student, partner, parent, creative, social fulfilled you etc. all at the same time. Trying to be that person will only make you miserable. It will make you depressed and unhappy. We all make sacrifices to our priorities. What is your largest priority? What are the choices you’re willing to make so that you can make those important things truly important?

And these are all our first world problems. Very few of us are truly trapped in circumstances that really mean we can’t eat tonight, don’t have a roof over our head tonight. Certainly more than there used to be, but we’re all a little to used to the luxuries of modern society that we’ve come to expect as our due. You’re not that special. Really. The success of other people isn’t your failure. Just because you’re not able to do what you want RIGHT NOW doesn’t mean you can’t one day. Figure it out.

This entry partially brought to you by a piece on NPR with regard to the new Affleck film “The Company Men”.