By Carter Gaddis
I want it all.
I want to be there – actually, physically, there – for my sons. I want to be a life partner and best friend for my wife, and I want her to be those things for me, too. I want a career that pays me what my work is worth and provides the kind of personal and professional gratification that comes from making a meaningful contribution, whether from a business perspective or culturally.
I want all of that.
And I want this, too: I want to write fiction that resonates with someone. I want to write short stories like O’Connor or Fitzgerald and novels like Irving, Chabon or Russo. I want readers. I want readers who want to buy my work in order to read it.
I want that, and I want to play FIFA soccer on my PS3 while I drink cheap red wine or expensive English beer. I want to watch Mad Men and enjoy a nice glass of Tennessee bourbon every now and then.
I want to play softball again, and I want to go on dates with my wife. I want to go to Walt Disney World when we can, and I want to visit Cape Cod in August.
I really want to go back to London. Paris, too. And I’d like to see Rome and Florence one day.
I want healthy, happy children who grow up well and change the world for the better.
I want it all.
I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I’m a writer.
I want all of the things behind those three curtains. And so does my wife.
What? We have to choose?
Here’s the problem. We do have to choose, just as men and women have had to choose since the rise of the original American middle class. That began about a century or so ago, when technology and progressive ideas about how the working class should be treated combined to thrust this country into an unprecedented era of relative ease and prosperity. It wasn’t always easy. True prosperity proved elusive for far too many of us. But on the whole, the world has never seen a society like ours, wherein individual aspirations are — in theory — paramount, and we are free to shape our government in order to create an atmosphere conducive to the pursuit of those aspirations.
A fiercely independent spirit — that’s the American ethos. That’s why we want it all. But who am I kidding? The past three generations — the Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials — have collectively believed they are owed it all. We aren’t.
We are, however, owed the freedom to pursue happiness, the freedom to pursue our respective definitions of “it all.” The freedom to conduct that pursuit is an inalienable right.
I understand that it’s never going to happen, that there actually is no such thing as “having it all.” Even confronted by that reality, though, I’m not going to stop wanting it. I’m not going to stop pursuing it. I can appreciate what we have and still pursue the ideal. The joy (and sometimes the anguish) is in the pursuit.
What is the formula for finding the necessary balance? How do you decide what to sacrifice and what will absolutely never fall by the wayside? Our family doesn’t have any big secret. We just do it day by day and work hard to stay on top of all of our responsibilities at home, at work and at school. And we have fun along the way.
Sometimes, it’s great. Other times, it feels like our heads are going to explode.
So, what would make me — a dad, a husband, a writer — happy?
I want… it all.
Is that too much to ask?