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.