This is a question I often ask myself.
Not too long ago, I went to the Google I/O conference 2013. Awestruck, I watched as they demoed incredible technology, and then I asked myself: “What am I doing here?”
I wanted to be up there with them. I wanted to be the one showing off this or that new brainchild. I have always wanted to, even as a child – especially as a child. But somewhere along the line, things got mixed up, and my priorities went askew. From grandiose, long-term goals I switched to shorter and shorter things – this competition, that exam, this paycheck. Little drops of water make up a mighty ocean. To churn cliches, I, in swimming after these little drops, forgot that I was in the ocean, and it was mine to reach out and drink. I’m sure this has happened to every one of you reading this.
Mostly, the problem is money. At a certain age, at a certain time, you become obsessed with earning. And then you realize you can buy things with what you earned: and then you realize there are slightly better things that you can buy, if only you saved up another month: and so on, and so on, until your obsession with money and the fleeting happiness it brings is complete. I admit, this is what happened to me.
So what did I do? I took a step back and looked at my priorities. I got out of school with a very clear roadmap in my mind – a series of If/Then statements that would inevitably lead me towards a certain career, armed with all the necessary qualifications. It was a get-rich-quick scheme that would end up with me being substantially richer than I would ever have been otherwise. Insofar as I could, I stuck to this.
I realized this was wrong. I had pitched my 5 year plan on propelling me towards this one particular, generalized post. The how and the what were rock-solid. But somewhere along the line I had failed to consider something serious: the why. I realized that this plan was propelled with the sheer intent of making money, and not with the more important objective of spending my time in meaningful pursuits. The why was all wrong. They say money can’t buy happiness, which is entirely false. Money buys happiness, alright. But what use is money if you become dependent on money to be happy? Isn’t that just as bad as cocaine or heroin?
If you base your entirely existence upon earning money, so that you can trade it for happiness, you’re doing something wrong. I thought of all the cool stuff I wanted to do. The things – like coding games and exploring procedural generation and organizing events and attending meetups and generally acting like a codemonkey – I never seem to have time to do, now that I’m busy earning money. And I realized that the money was essential, but it could never make me as happy as I would be doing these.
In the real world it’s very hard not to trade money for your dreams. Time is always a limited resource, and you either throw it as earning or being happy – unless you’re already rich, of course. But I’m going to try to balance. I don’t care if I don’t get rich: all I care is now is about my dreams. This isn’t as rosy-eyed a situation as this text makes it out to be. Shit is going to be hard. It will always be hard. But if I don’t have time for my dreams, nobody will. Come, follow.