Everything Has A Catch

2012 June 22

A piece in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye the other day – a third of New Yorkers are now spending over half their income on rent. Think about New York. Think about what an amazing city it is. Now, think about handing over 50% of your pay check to a landlord every month.

It reminded me that everything comes with a catch, a fly in the ointment, a little bitter with your sweet. You get offered a great job, but it means you have to move to a suburb of Bloomington, Indiana. You meet your perfect match, but she’s committed to being child-free. You can grow up to be an artist, but you still have to work retail. Even when you get what you want, you can’t control the form it comes in or the baggage it brings with it.

Being happy is  so often about making difficult choices and being content with and accepting of the outcomes. It’s sitting down and doing the hard math – do the good things outweigh the bad things in this situation? If they do, you just might have to accept the downsides and trade-offs as a corollary of being an imperfect person in an unfair world.  We’ve all got a little sand mixed into our sugar.

The goal is not to have it all. The goal is to have what makes you happy. But you also have to accept that that happiness won’t be a 24/7 kind of deal and that everything comes with a cost. You can haggle and bargain all you want (and you should), but whether you’re paying in dollars, time, energy or forfeited opportunity, there are always going to be bills to settle. Once you get your head around this reality, finessing what you’ve got (vs. gambling on the possibility of a yet-to-be-discovered better option) starts to make a whole lot of sense.

So, yes, you can live in NYC, but it means sharing a three-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint and never having more than $50 in disposable income to your name for the foreseeable future.

The choice is up to you.

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