As I’ve mentioned before, I recently dropped several of my (consistently paid) teaching hours in order to make more time in my life for things that don’t (consistently) pay (yet): like quartet rehearsal, organizational development, prose writing, and songwriting. I also wanted to make more time for things that I know will never pay, but without which, life is meaningless: time with my husband, my friends, my family, and myself. Time to prepare healthy food, exercise, and reflect. This all sounds pretty awesome, right?

It is. But surprise, surprise — it’s also a trade-off.

We’re living on less. We want to go on vacation, but we’re not sure what we can afford. I think my wisdom teeth are coming in, but I don’t have dental insurance. My mom just died, but it’s hard to find room in the budget for therapy.

So I find myself wondering exactly where the balance is between financial precariousness and artistic satisfaction, between workaholism and not working enough, between dreams and reality.

One thing is for sure: it’s a damn privilege to have this flexibility, to do this kind of navel-gazing. And I know so many of my friends are also lucky enough to be facing these questions.

Here’s the thing about working your ass off and having lots of money for retirement: Sometimes retirement doesn’t come. Sometimes you get sick and die when you are fifty. I know, because it happened to the most precious woman in my life. That sounds really dramatic, but it is true. So I’m not sure how wise it is to save all of our adventures, all of our joy, all of our relaxation “for later” and slave through our younger years with our eyes on a target we may never see.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually do save for retirement. (It’s the Retirement 2050 account, if you’re looking for one.) I act like there will be a tomorrow. But I’m starting to realize I’ll give up a lot to have the quality of life I want — today.

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