On living a life, not a lifestyle

I read my share of blogs, especially personal finance and entrepreneurship blogs, mostly for the entertainment value. You’d think advice such as “live on less than you earn” and tips for how to get ahead and strategies for working smarter, not harder would be fairly straightforward. But they’re not. All of these things depend on what you want out of life.

Because so many of these blogs are written by youngish men, what they want out of life is a lifestyle. They want vacations at beach resorts, and lots of young women who enjoy their company, and they don’t want to work too hard, and they want to play G.I. Joe without any actual risk, and they want to travel the world with a backpack and experience things.

God bless ’em, I was young once, too.

This is just another hedonic treadmill, a hedonic treadmill of lifestyle experience, no different from the treadmill that entices you to buy a bigger house and a newer car and a more expensive wardrobe, the unending pursuit of a reward you will never get.

A lifestyle is not a life.

I get the appeal of all these things, of four-hour workweeks and sitting under a palm tree drinking mai tais. But that is the lowest common denominator, the least of what a life could be.

And so from the depths of my not quite middle-aged soul, I thought I would make a small and quiet plea for people to live their lives, not their lifestyles. To be instead of to pretend. To work for what matters instead of getting things done with the least amount of investment possible for the most amount of money.

Here is what living is, in no particular order:

  • Breakfast with a colleague who believes in you and says so.
  • A chance meeting on a subway with someone who is kind to your daughter.
  • Egg rolls for Thanksgiving.
  • Your daughter sitting next to you and laughing at the antics in a performance of Twelfth Night.
  • An old friend who reaches across the years to give you a hug.
  • Pulling a worn hospital blanket up to your daughter’s shoulders to keep her warm and knowing that you are connected to every other mother who has ever stood here and done the same thing.
  • Finishing the manuscript.
  • A sandwich with your two oldest friends on a freezing November afternoon.
  • Getting a note from a reader who says thank you.

So that’s my definition of living. What’s yours?


Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

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  1. Wanting to smack my husband stupid for being home for the 14th day in a row around here.

    Sweeping up the confetti off the floor every January 1 in the middle of the night.

    Collecting odd things with IU symbols on them so I can show them off to the same folks who come over to watch games every weekend.

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