Not Everyone Can Live the Perfect Life

Not Everyone Can Live the Perfect Life

Ever watch The Price is Right? That insanely long-running game show where overly-caffeinated contestants try to correctly guess supermarket item prices in order to win lavish prizes?

When I was a kid, I hate-watched that show with a vengeance. Whenever I had a day off from school, I’d tune in to find out what the episode’s Showcase Showdown prizes would be — a luxurious dining room set? A high-end barbecue grill? A jet ski?

As the winner jumped up and down, hysterically screaming, arms flapping, I’d seethe. I was aware, even back then, that the Showcase Showdown wasn’t meant for me. Age aside (I was 10), I knew I couldn’t bring those sparkly items home.

My mother and I lived in the projects. We didn’t have a dining room for a table, let alone an entire furniture set. There was no backyard for a grill. And unless the jet ski could get my mom to and from one of her three jobs, it was pretty much useless.

It felt to 10-year-old me as if the show’s producers forgot there was an entire population out there who maybe couldn’t fit a giant California King bed into their tiny studio, or house an 80" TV in their shoe-box of a living room. The premise of the show — guess the price of ordinary household items — made it appear equitable, but the Showdown all but eliminated anyone with a house smaller than 3,000 square feet from winning, or at least keeping, the prizes.

 
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I stopped watching The Price is Right decades ago, but the Showdown memories came flooding back this week when I stumbled upon not one, not two, but three articles offering life-altering advice.

Whittled down, each of the three came to the same conclusion— any lofty goal is achievable if you simply pursue it. And if you don’t, if you spend your life dreaming but never doing, you have only yourself to blame. In fact, one went so far as to state those who aren’t making improvements in their lives need to have their “head examined.”

To this, I say: No. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

See, I recently quit my day job to pursue writing full-time.

I’m chasing my dream. I’m pursuing a lofty goal. I’m making things happen. I’m making the authors of those articles proud.

But, full disclosure: I have a husband who works full-time. Together, we’ve built up savings that will provide enough of a financial cushion to balance out my lack of steady income. I have a mother who, while raising me, pushed her own dreams aside and worked multiple jobs to ensure I would someday go to college. Neither of my parents ever once blinked when I applied to film school, moved cross-country on a whim, or left my job to become a writer. And my friends have said nothing but incredibly kind things about my articles.

So yes, I’m making big changes in order to live my best life, but I’m doing so with financial and emotional support — something not available to many, many people.

 
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My Advice to Advice Writers: Lay off the guilt trips.

When you publish an article saying that all dreams are easily achievable, you’re offering a Showcase Showdown prize. You’re telling those readers who don’t have a strong network of support that your advice isn’t really for them. You’re awarding the pool table to the family in the one-bedroom tenement; your advice ain’t gonna fit.

Many folks aren’t in a place, financially or otherwise, to up and quit their job. Or leave their spouse. Or return to school. Or launch a business. I’m guessing just about everyone on the planet over the age of 18 would love to find the perfect job/man/woman/abode, but doing so requires time, money, and energy — not easy to come by if you have mouths to feed or a health condition or are just plain living life with few resources.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t encourage others to live their lives to the fullest; there’s nothing wrong with motivating readers to pursue their passion. But please don’t belittle those who lack social or economic capital by insinuating they’re just not driven enough to make their dreams come true.

We’re all just trying to make our way through this messy, sloppy, beautiful thing called life. We should tailor our work for all readers, and support one another as we try to make the best of things.

Let’s leave the jet skis to the TV people. I always preferred walking anyway.

A version of this post first appeared in The Ascent

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