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Grown-Up Life: Balancing Your Passions with Responsibility

It’s one of the biggest dilemmas I’ve discovered since graduating from college: now that I’m a “grown up,” with a job and bills to pay and responsibilities that I have to take care of (not to mention a precious limited number of vacation days), I find it hard to take longer-than-a-weekend trips. Now that I have a few dollars to spend on travel, it seems impossible to find the time to do it. But when I had the time, I was flat broke and there was no way I could finance all the trips I wanted to take.

Now, believe me, I know how lucky I am to have this problem. Jobs aren’t exactly being handed out on every street corner. I’m lucky to be building a career in my chosen field, and I’m thankful for that every single day. But it’s hard when something you’re equally passionate about (in this case, travel) is compromised and delayed and pushed to the back burner. It’s definitely a struggle to figure out how I can balance the things I love doing with the things I need to do.

Sometimes I find myself looking back on the trips I’ve taken, whether it was the month-long trek around Europe or the spring break spent at Mardi Gras, and I miss those days of backpacks and booking last-minute tickets because I found a great deal, had a little cash saved and had no serious responsibilities. But then I remember the thrill of getting my first full-time paycheck and realizing I was self-sufficient, with no one to answer to except myself, and I recognize that while those experiences seem completely different, the feelings behind them were the same; it was all about freedom.

Another by-product of getting older is gaining perspective. And one of the things I’ve learned is that there is no “perfect time” for anything (this applies not just to travel, but to so many things in life). You’ll likely never have a bunch of extra cash lying around, and a month of vacation days to use up, and a free condo on a tropical beach where you can crash. But if you want something badly enough, you’ll figure out a way to make it happen. Maybe “making it happen” will mean adjusting your expectations and coming to terms with a new reality. Sure, we’d all love to lounge on the beach for a month, but maybe a weekend trip to the lake can serve the same purpose, at least in the short term.

Being an adult means making adult decisions. It also means being realistic about my wants versus my needs, and being honest with myself about what I want my life to look like. I like to think that if the day ever comes when I look in the mirror and realize I need to make a drastic change, if I feel like the road is calling me full time, I’ll have the courage to answer it. But until then, I’ll try to strike the best balance between career and passion, between home and away.

How do you find the time to pursue your passions?

Tweet me @StephSpitler

Featured Image via Shutterstock

  • Megan Atkinson

    I don’t find the time. I make it.

    This is a hot button topic for me. There is no “finding” the time to go back to school. Or to take a month-long trip. Or to learn to paint or speak Swahili or play the ukelele. Time is not something to be found.

    We make time. We make time based on our priorities. Our reality doesn’t change as our responsibilities grow… our priorities change. And if we’re prioritizing a steady paycheck over adventure, we’ll find ways to have more money but less adventure will occur. It’s that simple.

    Telling people to temper their passions and tide themselves over with the more reasonable, responsible, and attainable version of their once-juicy dreams is like, as my dear friend, Brandy states, “a permission slip to stay small.”

    I say go big. If you want it, make it a priority. And once it’s a priority, work your ass off to make it happen. Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean that dreams, passions, and a chance at the extraordinary live you once longed for are things of the past. It just means we have to fight a little harder to hang onto them when the world starts telling us to give up on them.

  • Nancy Norbeck

    HEAR HEAR. Seriously, life is too short. As I tend to say, “life is too short to wear boring socks.” And if it’s too short to wear boring socks, it’s also too short to shortchange your dreams and passions. As far as any of us can say with absolute certainty, we get to do this Life thing precisely ONCE. Trampling on our own dreams because we are “adults” and have to be “practical” is a recipe for regret down the road. Find the time. Find a way. Go out and blaze your own wild, wacky trail if that’s what it takes to make it happen. Boxing up your own dreams and packing them up on a shelf is bad enough when someone else does it to you, but doing it to yourself is like testifying against yourself in court. Don’t do it.

  • Kiana T

    What a timely post! I’m caught in a place between following my dreams and passions (i.e. social justice) on one hand, and staying in the safety of my job on the other hand. Staying at the safety of my job, however, also means being able to pursue other dreams (e.g. arts, comedy). So really, the question becomes: Which dream/passion is more important to me? Is it more important for me to be comfortable (i.e. financially), have a nice social life, and pursue some of my more minor interests, or is it more important to me to sacrifice all of that for my larger life-long passion? Am I even willing to do that? At what cost (e.g. loans)? This whole balancing passions and responsibility is a tough choice that I think varies based on your life context and age.

    • Shayda Soleiman

      i just went through this too! i figured its early enough in my career. i left my job just yesterday to pursue my true dream, and im so scared because im going to be without me steady income, but i figured now is the time to take risks.

  • Anquanette Gaspard

    Awesome post! Just shared it on my blog’s FB page in hopes to provide some additional inspiration to my followers! Life is too short so one must take advantage of opportunities to do the things you’ve always wanted to do!

  • Stephanie Spitler

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. It’s always interesting to hear lots of different views!

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