I grew up in a small town outside of Boston, not destitute-poor nor ostentatious-rich. I had a perfectly normal upbringing, fraught with wonderful childhood memories of uncontroversial activities and agreeable relatives. I made it through middle school and high school without ever getting arrested, pregnant, or high off crystal meth. And although I once slept in a parking lot, I was still nestled in the comforts of a Coleman campers tent.
My early life of relative contentment lent me an idealistic view of the world. It’s easy to be idealistic when everything has worked out, for the most part. I believe that people are inherently good, even if they can be incredibly stupid. I believe that government, when run efficiently, can do a lot of good. And I believe that in our endless pursuit of happiness, we should wholeheartedly follow careers that we love.
Of course, my idealism has always been tainted by another convincing worldview: cynicism. I’m not sure where my cynicism comes from (there is no reason for it), but it’s always been there, loud and brash. The cynic sits on my left shoulder, while the idealist sits on my right — mirroring the eternal left brain/right brain civil war battles in my head. To the cynic, my idealism is construed as naivete, as folly; to the idealist, my cynicism is just an excuse to keep accepting the status quo.
So far, the cynic has won. No, I’ve never taken a risk in my life (even our tent was placed on school grounds). I’ve taken the steady jobs, made the uncontroversial decisions, and traveled the safe routes. Along this road, I’ve been incredibly happy and lucky — I really cannot complain about anything. And yet, there has always been a nagging feeling, pulling at me from that unfulfilled idealist side, telling me that I need to follow “my passion”, as if I knew what it was. I have an idea, sure… but following your dreams? Ha! The cynic gave up on that years ago.
After a few years in the working world, I found myself listening less and less to the idealist. After all, the cynic is practical, reasoned, and easy. It’s hard to give up the easy stuff (having a job, having money) to go follow those crazy, fuzzy dreams. Idealism is for the weak-minded, the cynic says. It’s for people who don’t have any better options. It’s for people who don’t actually try anything, because once they do, they become cynics! (…or so the cynic says.) So as we get older, the idealist fades. It only preys on the young, the innocent, and the weak-brained. As learned, intelligent adults, we should know better… right?
I thought so too. But then, in December of last year, I decided that I needed to take a totally clichéd leap of faith. I went into a meeting with the CFO of my company, which was set up to talk about my budding finance career. In that meeting, I told her that while I enjoyed finance, my real passion was in writing. She argued. I tried to fight back. She argued some more. I dropped off a script that I wrote. She gave me the cynic’s trademark move: a deadly raised eyebrow. But I had already made up my mind. Though I could never persuade her otherwise, I was glad to contribute kindling for her office fireplace; I was going to become a writer.
So in May, I’m moving out to Los Angeles in my first real attempt to try and make it as a writer. What kind of writer? I’m not sure. It’s still a somewhat fuzzy dream, but with support from friends and family, it’s getting clearer. And although I’m not taking a completely crazy leap of faith (I still have a full-time job), it’s one step closer to the fuzzy end goal.
Even if it doesn’t work out, at least I’ll have saved the fading idealist in me, who had been teetering so close to the edge of the rye field. After all, I still need a left-brain counterweight to tone down that cynic.