Before Hurricane Sandy came in and screwed up my life - sending us out of our house for 8 days and causing me to rant, then cry, then apologize on the phone with my electricity provider - my husband and I went to a wedding.
It was a fabulous wedding, as only second marriage weddings can be. The bride was beautiful and self assured, the groom was handsome and relaxed. There was no drama*, just a damn good party with friends that I hadn't seen in too long.
One of these friends, Nancy, I haven't seen in years. I used to work with Nancy at the New York Times doing events and in addition to being beautiful and cosmopolitan (down to her bones New York chic) she was a cabaret singer and a professional at the top of her game. Then she decided she wanted to be a cantor. She wanted to study for five long years to follow her passion. She gave up the NYT, she gave up singing gigs in piano bars. She worked her ass off.
We exchanged hugs and updated each other on our lives. My update looked like this: Moved to Pennsylvania; wrote a book; wrote another book; (eventually) got an agent; went on submission; earned a master's degree in 50 shades of rejection. I finished by telling her that I sometimes felt guilty, getting to do what I'm passionate about. I said I knew it was a luxury to write, when it is not (currently) helping our household's bottom line (though I am a fierce couponer, dude.)
Nancy is usually a composed soul, but she wasn't having any of this argument. Her voice was emphatic (maybe due to the mojito) when she declared that it was NOT a luxury to follow your passion. Even if others have to make sacrifices for you?, I asked, thinking of my husband, my kids when I'm in the writing cave, when I'm off limits, when I'm despondent that things aren't going well. Yes, she said. Even when others make sacrifices. Don't we sacrifice for our families too? Isn't it a give and take? Don't belittle the value of following your passion. Don't underestimate the good that can come from making yourself happy. It's not selfish to be happy, if your happiness grows into more happiness for your family - spreads out to encompass everyone like a big ole happiness Snugli (I'm paraphrasing, Nancy would never say 'Snugli')
I see what she is saying. I really do. But the voice in the back of my mind reminds me that Nancy doesn't have kids. She doesn't have a husband right now. Of course she has responsibilities and people she loves. But her immediate familial duties - kinda light. Is she right? Or are we just in different places?
It's a moot point. I'm not giving up writing. But I can see a time, in the future, that I might need to make a choice.
So what do you think? Is writing a luxury? A necessity? Both?
*No drama that I saw, anyway.