UNTITLED. I almost didn’t write this because I was worried the people I’m about to paraphrase will read it and find some offense, which they shouldn’t in the least. Because I’m using what they said as a greater example of human nature. And there’s nothing about human nature that we really need to be ashamed of. Or rather, there’s nothing that being ashamed or offended is going to fix. But I’d still like to start with a caveat that if you read this and think you might be one of the people I mention anonymously, holler, and we’ll see what we can do.

I now invite you to read the following paraphrased quotes said to me over the last couple of years by clients, family members and even one financial advisor.

“I wish I’d gone off to a big city in my early twenties and then come back here, to the Midwest to settle down in my late twenties.”

“I wish I’d gone off to a big city like NYC or LA to start my businesses instead of staying in MI, I might be more successful now.”

“I wish I’d started thinking more seriously earlier on about my career choices and how much money I was likely to make from them.”

It’s not important to say which personas said what. But each and every one of them has children, owns a home and seems happily coupled up. So, what gives? Don’t they have what they’re supposed to have?

Yep. According to what our culture tells them they should have. They’ve got it. They’re in love, they’re perpetuating the human race, they’ve got 40 acres and a mule. And yet, when faced with someone who represents a road not taken they suddenly become wistful, regretful. Even though this someone has not one thing these others can boast of.

Are these quotes something to be brushed off, a little tick in human nature that makes us over-analyze the past. Or is it indicative of something deeper? Could it be that what we’re told is the end-all, be-all in long term satisfaction and fulfillment isn’t really?

I don’t know. But what I have observed is the malaise that comes from routine. The low level loss of energy and excitement, ushering in mild depression most people are in denial of. And what I’ve taken from it is that to always have a goal and be pursuing it toward your personal fulfillment helps in the way of getting rid of those pesky “what if” regrets.

What if you did stay in your home base, never having explored a big city as a single youngster? You got married, had kids, bought a house. End of story, right?

No. This is where paths can diverge. What if you had a dream of being a commercially successful visual artist, selling out galleries with your work. Or what if you dreamed of creating the next Harry Potter series, of having the most downloaded podcast on iTunes about the Prussian War? And what if you eked out time for yourself each week or each month to paint, to record and post podcasts, to write? That wouldn’t be the end of the story would it?

Alternatively, what if for some completely bizarre and illogical reason, you decided those dreams were pointless, you’d never achieve them and the most important thing was to grind it out at a job to make money supporting your kids’ dreams and paying for your home. Well then, that is the end of the story.

Here’s the moral; it’s twofold.

1. people strive and stress, hem and haw to get all those things they’re told are so important to have in order to be an “adult” and to be “responsible” and to “fit in.” Often they settle for less than they deserve and really want in order to appease the idea of a higher social order. (And PS Society doesn’t give a shit about you, that’s another post.) But clearly–clearly–there’s something more. How easily having those things can be forgotten when personal fulfillment is on the line, calling into question the importance of collecting them merely for the sake of having them.

2. Having it all is about making the time. As simple as that. And there’s no reason why you need feel regretful of roads not taken, when you’re working on something that is truly meaningful to you. No matter where you are. No matter what you have.

Originally published at itsaculturething.com.

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