It feels like dreaming big is in the air. I've had many conversations with friends lately about their plans and dreams. One friend wants to stop working outside of the home and instead pursue a creative endeavor that will allow her to stay home with her son. Another friend is pushing herself to pursue her real passions, even though they are very different from her current day job and even though those passions are challenging and make her feel like quitting sometimes (Meghan, I love reading about your adventures, and I'm rooting for you!).
Another friend and I talked about the importance of being honest with yourself--really honest with yourself--about what makes you happy. She's realizing that the career she has pursued since college might no longer be how she wants to spend her days. She talked about how difficult it can be to admit that to oneself. Her career is such an integral part of her identity--both how she sees herself and how others see her. It makes it even more difficult to step aside and pursue authentic happiness.
Another friend seems to have the ideal job from an outsider's perspective and yet she's ready to brainstorm new paths to take. She's at that scary intersection where roads lead in all sorts of different directions.
Matt and I have also been having these conversations. He was recently offered a new job with another non-profit organization doing amazing work in the education sector. When he was contemplating the benefits and drawbacks of making the change, I asked, "What do you really, really want?" His answer was simple. He explained that he wanted to be able to run every day. Running is such an important part of his life, and yet it's been squished to the side with the expansion of our family. He still runs approximately five times a week and plays soccer on the sixth day, but his running has been relegated to extremely late in the evening (which means he has to run on a nearly full stomach from dinner and we can't relax together in the evenings) or extremely early in the morning (which mean he is even more sleep-deprived than the average new parent).
When we realized that such a simple thing--time to run during the day--would have such a profound impact on his quality of life, he decided to propose an alternate schedule to the awesome folks at his new job. We decided that it would be worth any pay-cut that it entailed because we are in a place where happiness is more important than more money (I'm so glad we've finally reached that place!). He will now be able to drop off Henry at school in the morning and then go for a run before settling in to start his work for the day. Although it was a scary thing to ask ("What if they think I'm not committed to the work? What if they say 'no'?"), it will undoubtedly make all the difference in his quality of life. I think it's absurd that we tend to push ourselves to work ourselves to the bone before retirement. I would much rather have time to enjoy myself when I'm younger and healthier. I'm so proud of Matt for going out on a limb to ask for what he wanted, and I am ecstatic that it's actually going to work out.
I know every single one of us that I talked about in this post is coming from a place of privilege. Self-actualization can only be pursued when all of your other basic needs are being met. The fact that I have the privilege to pursue my dreams while there are others who have to struggle to get food on the table is unjust. That's precisely why my chosen path is creating educational opportunities that promote social justice. I believe all people should be able to live the kind of life discussed in the video above, and education is one way to help make that vision a reality.