A reader writes:
At the risk of sounding somewhat obnoxious, I am finding this economic crisis rather soothing.
Back in 1999, I was earning a decent salary (about 60k a year) and had good career prospects at a major daily newspaper. Then, pre-millennial angst crept in: Is this all there is to life? So, I cashed in my savings and dropped out. I moved to Paris, I worked with an art project, I wrote a couple of books, I spent time living in Beijing and on the Greek Islands.
My philosophy was that the one thing a person can’t afford in life is regret and this mantra carried me off on adventures I couldn’t have even imagined back when I was slogging away at the newspaper. The doubts and panic started last year. I am worth nothing: no assets and a bank balance that rises into four digits on only the rarest of occasions. I find myself approaching 40, a less romantic age to live hand-to-mouth. And then my girlfriend became pregnant. All of a sudden, I was sneaking longing glances at those who had stayed in the game and had pensions, homes, and the wherewithal to give their children a decent start in life. I became very very nervous.
Now, thanks to the plummeting economy, I realize that I would probably be just as anxious if I had never gone off on my odyssey. If I had stayed at the newspaper, I might be jobless with a rotted-out pension and a house that wasn’t worth its mortgage. Though I am still worried about providing for my child in this dismal economy, I am more confident than ever that I made the right decision when I abandoned my safe career to taste the broader glories of life. Because, as is now so overwhelmingly clear, nothing is ever truly safe.
If this recession serves as anything, hopefully it will be a reminder that you should never compromise your ambitions in favor of the chimera of financial security. If you are inevitably going to end up in the poorhouse, you might as well get there by chasing the wildest of your dreams.