It turns out that the American Dream was never my dream. Rather, it was competing with my dream, clouding over my revelatory desire to be a literary writer. The big house, the fancy car, the impressive job title, the six-figure salary, the superfluous stuff. I had all of it. But none of it made me happy. And none of it allowed me to pursue my dream.
Instead, there was a void. Something was missing. I didn’t know what that void was, and working 70-80 hours a week didn’t give me much time to explore its cavernous interior.
And so before I left my job last year, I had to pay the price for my self-indulgent twenties as that scarred decade descended into the cloud-cluttered horizon. I could no longer afford the lifestyle I’d been living during my mindless twenties, a cog in a wheel of greed and lust and happenstance. Instead, it was far more important for me to pursue my dream—to pursue my passion for writing—than it was for me to keep living that empty, opulent lifestyle, a lifestyle which, by the way, was not bringing me happiness.
Thus, pursuing my dream didn’t come without a cost. Before I left my career to become a full-time writer, I spent two years paying off the vast majority of my debt: credit card debt, student loans, medical bills, and the like. Then I paid off my car and sold my large house and eventually moved into a small, $500-per-month apartment.
Then, over time, I gradually got rid of nearly all my bills, committing to no commitments.
I no longer have the Internet at home. Instead, I now find more productive things to do with my time, focusing on my health and my relationships and the more important things in life. When I need to use the Internet, I go to the library or a coffee shop and I use it deliberately, no longer wasting hours of my life “surfing the web.” Living my dream doesn’t allow time for such pillory.
No more TV. Instead, I read or write or go to a concert or a movie with a friend, creating meaningful, lasting experiences instead of channel surfing my life away. Living my dream doesn’t allow time for such passive nonsense.
No more expensive gym membership. Now, I walk more than ever, and I exercise each day at home or in the park. And at age 31, I’m in the best shape of my life.
No more extra bills. No new expensive cars. No more satellite radio. No more expensive cellphone plan. No more Netflix. No more magazine subscriptions. Hell, I even stopped buying material possessions for a year. Living my dream makes these ephemeral pleasures pale in comparison.
And now my only bills at this point are rent, utilities, and insurance. Everything else had to go. I decided that pursuing my dream was worth it.
I now make less money than I did a decade ago. But I’ve never been happier.
That happiness didn’t come without a price, though. It meant getting uncomfortable, questioning my stuff, and getting rid of my crap. It meant refocusing my finances and re-prioritizing my life. It meant living more deliberately and intentionally. It meant I had to stop living the lie and start living my dream, moving forward with a new life of focus and passion and purpose—and far less stuff.
Since then, I’ve written the best literature of my life, and I’ve never felt more alive.
How about you: is your dream worth the sacrifices you need to make?