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NonFiction Lives Are More Fulfilling

Last week, David at My Two Dollars, asked whether we were living lives that are fiction or nonfiction. By fictional, he means living as though we’re someone that we’re not, whether in our financial behavior or in other things.

Fictional lives are based on the (incorrect) belief that we would be far happier if only we could be like other people. Perhaps we buy a bigger house than we need (or even want) because we assume that bigger is better. We buy an expensive car to look good at work. Perhaps we decide to write a profound novel instead of a romance because it’s “respectable.”

One truth about our life that has been very useful to me is the phrase “we’re grad students.” First, it’s great at shutting down callers who want us to do things we don’t want to do. Second, it helps me see our situation as a pretty normal one and think of us as being part of a greater group. I’m not actually a grad student, but technically Micah is until he finishes his dissertation.

In my creative outlets, I’ve also found that I have a LOT more fun if I stick to things that I like to do instead of things that are more “artistic” or “informational.” My blog-writing style is more conversational than some PF bloggers. My taste in quilting patterns is oriented toward squares and triangles instead of abstract designs. I like geometry. And as you might have gathered from the second paragraph, I’m inclined to write romances because I have fun reading them.

I’ve battled with myself over each of these tendencies and am finally coming to terms with them. As I accept my tastes, I enjoy them even more!

The issue with a fictional life isn’t whether or not you can afford it or do it. Even if you can afford to live like someone you’re not, that won’t bring you the best happiness you can have. Micah and I could afford to go out to dinner once a month. Those dates would make us kind of happy. But we have an even better time going out for coffee or borrowing a DVD from the library and making popcorn. That’s who we are (homebodies).

If we did those things only because we thought we should because they’re cheaper, then we’d be straying into fiction. If we couldn’t afford anything else and did them because they were the best we could afford, then we’d still be in the area of non-fiction.

The good news is that, often, accepting the less-fashionable parts of yourself helps save money. But even if you can’t afford your tastes, you’ll probably find greater happiness in the long run by figuring out what you can afford that makes you happy instead of focusing on what you can’t.

{ 2 trackbacks }

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Penelope @ Pecuniarities March 2, 2009 at 8:10 am

I would say my sister and I live 98% non-fictional (or is it non-fictitious?) lives. We own what our architecture major cousin calls “a boring house” which we can afford (and hope to continue affording economy permitting) and we drive a somewhat messy-inside 10 year old car with a few dings in its side.

We are homebodies, too, and don’t mind staying home, which we do all the time except to go to the grocery store, library and bank about once a month.

We’re OK with this for now, but of course dream of one day living a fictional life – a little farm with a few sheep for our dogs to herd (they’re Border Collies), enough money to buy all the books we want, to take a cruise to Europe on the Queen Mary 2 which will allow us to take our dogs, and for me, a giant plasma TV and all the DVDs I want. 😀

Now just to figure out how to turn non-fiction into fiction…


Connie March 2, 2009 at 2:27 pm

I definitely agree. I’ve personally struggled a lot with the pressure to fit a certain mold. As a college student at a very old and traditional “good old boys” institution, I’ve felt obligated to conform to what a traditional Dartmouth student should be, when in fact I am quite the opposite. Since I’ve tried to embrace what I am rather than what the culture around me dictated, I’ve found I am much happier and more open in general. Using your reading example, I also used to be embarrassed about enjoying romance novels and made deals with myself that for every trashy novel I read, I’d read two “literature” books. It didn’t work, but now I find myself naturally picking up both types and always enjoying myself. Similarly, I’ve given up on my former ideal of the perfectly coiffed Ivy lady with the pearls and L.L. Bean tote and have embraced myself as I am, loving my cheap plastic watch and hideous but comfy Merrells.

cybele March 2, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Yes, dear Mrs Micah…here, as so often, you are on the right track. If you know that being in your garden and cooking dinner every night and seeing movies occasionally on DVD is what makes for a good and happy life, then…that’s the Right Thing to Do….and so many many people can’t seem to let go of what they think society ‘expects’ of them and so they buy/save for/wish for all the things that ultimately will make them less happy because, of course, One Does Know what works and what doesn’t. The interesting thing is that knowing that and just doing what makes you happy often (IMHO/experience) makes you rich(er). Writing romances included.

Carol March 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm

The good news is that, often, accepting the less-fashionable parts of yourself helps save money.

I love this line. Made me laugh out loud. I’ve often struggled with feeling “boring” because I too am content to stay home much of the time, I LIKE to be casual and frugal and game night with friends is much more interesting to me than the local hot spot in town.

Thanks for the great post!

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