Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in two opposite directions? That’s me, most of the time, and it’s not like either one of the contradictory desires is intrinsically any more appealing than the other. I want both, but the realization of one necessitates the decimation of the other. I fully understand and appreciate that these are problems of privilege, existential challenges that I would not have to face if my hand were forced out of necessity or circumstance.
But they’re still problems. And I’m not entirely sure how I make my peace with them.
Privacy vs. Popularity
This wasn’t too much of a problem for the longest time. I’d carefully curate what I posted publicly on the Internet and my private life would remain reasonably private. I may have been more open about my life than some other people, but it never really bothered me.
The issue quickly propelled itself to the forefront when I became a dad, because I started to question whether I was exploiting my child for my own personal gain. And this has since become even more of a conundrum with the creation of the vlog series, especially as Addie has been featured more frequently and more prominently in the videos.
My humble online popularity is part and parcel to my attempt to be a reasonably successful “influencer” and “YouTuber.” At the same time, I want to maintain the integrity of my family’s privacy, even if I don’t necessarily maintain that of my own. Can I draw a line in the sand?
Connection vs. Independence
When you are single and child-free, particularly when you’re a solopreneur whose business can be run remotely from anywhere, they say the world is your oyster. Want to take a three hour lunch on a Wednesday because one of your friends is visiting from out of town? Go for it. Want to hop on a plane and spend a week in Taipei? Have at ‘er. You have no real obligations to anyone, so you are free to enjoy your independence.
Now, let’s say you work a more traditional 9-to-5 job and you have a tremendous relationship with your coworkers. Let’s say you’re married with 2.5 kids and you love your family dearly. Let’s also say that you are actively involved with some local clubs and organizations. You are richly connected to your community in so many ways, but you’ve had to sacrifice your independence, in a sense, in order to achieve it.
Which is better? While I certainly don’t resent my family and friends, who have enriched my life so much, I also feel like I’ve lost some sense of autonomy and control.
Simplicity vs. Complexity
In recent years, we’ve witnessed the rapid rise of minimalism. It’s in everything from mobile app design to how we choose to populate our homes. Myself, I’ve always been something of a pack rat, keeping so many things “just in case,” but I am making a conscious effort to declutter.
Sometimes, I wonder if life would be so much easier and I would be so much happier if everything were just simpler. If I were to cut it all down to the essentials, I wouldn’t catch myself stressing out about everything. Some of the happiest people on Earth lead the humblest and simplest of lives.
At the same time, adulthood is complex. Life is complex. And it is through this complexity that we can derive a greater sense of purpose, fully enjoying the rich tapestry of life experience. Variety, as the supposed spice of life, is necessarily not so simple.
Breadth vs. Depth
This is perhaps the set of contradictory desires that gives me the greatest grief. Inherently related to simplicity and complexity, choosing between breadth and depth means having to choose between getting a taste of everything at life’s buffet or taking the time to notice the subtle nuances of a single morsel.
Put another way, you must choose whether you want to stay on top of things or get to the bottom of things. Modern society appears to be structured in such a way to favor the latter. Specialists generally lead more lucrative careers than generalists. Knowing a lot about one thing is generally valued more than knowing a little about many things.
I understand that on an intellectual level. Maybe this blog would be more popular (see first comparison above) if I narrowed its focus down to a single niche. Maybe my freelance career would be more lucrative if I specialized in one particular type of writing. But the desire to do everything is much too strong. Is that so bad?
Flexibility vs. Predictability
Every time we plan any sort of trip, we come across this fundamental clashing of priorities. We want to have the flexibility to “wing it” and to be spontaneous when we get there. If a serendipitous something tickles our fancy, we want to be able to pursue it further. Travel is about exploring.
It may surprise some of you to hear, especially as I tout the “freedom” of freelancing so often, that I also highly value structure and predictability. I don’t like “figuring it out when we get there.” I want to know that ground transportation has been arranged (or at least scouted out). I want to know what attractions we’re going to visit and when. It’s not that I care, per se, as much as I just want to know ahead of time. I don’t want any unfortunate surprises.
Any of these pairs of contradictory desires could have been expanded into their own individual blog posts. You may have clicked on through hoping to find the perfect solution. Accept my apologies. I don’t have the answers. But I can offer the solace of knowing that you are not alone in your struggles. We just might not all post about it on the Internet.