Why Make A Career In New York When I Can Make Babies In Edmonton?
By David Metcalfe
May 4, 2019
I still remember the first time I came into contact with Malcolm Gladwell and the “New Yorker” magazine- it was life changing. I had spent the last four years of university study wandering around various disciplines without much inspiration, and only took the last year because I figured it would be a waste to do only three years of a degree. The degree would’ve been a waste if it weren’t for a certain article we were assigned to read in our sport sociology class- “Football and Dog Fighting” by Malcolm Gladwell.
I had seen academic articles before; they were impressive intellectually, and I admired well written ones, but they didn’t speak to me as a person. I didn’t like much about life at the time; I had a lot of angst against society, culture, and the social community I was situated in. Gladwell had a writing style where the angst shown through in a harsh criticism of society and culture- but not like vandals or terrorists, just mindlessly destroying things for their cause- no, Gladwell destroyed the old way people thought about things, and through intense erudition and intellectual rigor, changed their mind so they would think about it in a better way.
Writing became an expression of my angst, a forum for my sanctimony, a medium for my erudition, and an inspiration that gave me something worth living for. I often said the only reason I have to continue living on this earth is for the articles I have yet to write- and I meant it.
Everything I did was centred around the goal of being the best writer possible. I read a book every week, about 10 articles per day (both academic and popular/news), and wrote around 1000 words per day. I did this faithfully for about two years, and am still in the midst of it. There’s a vision I have of being a staff writer for the “New Yorker”- making $70,000/year, living in an apartment in Manhattan, and regularly publishing articles that get read by millions of people.
That goal was good when its pursuit seemed to quell my angst, but it doesn’t work well anymore.
I have a new theory that having a wife and children might actually be the greatest thing ever- a lot better, even, than writing. My problems now are not so much philosophical, religious, sociological, psychological, etc. I suppose the exterior, impersonal world is not as personal to me as it once was. My problems now are more related to loneliness, boredom, lack of community, and a general insufficiency in relational feeling. A wife, in my opinion, has the potential to answer my current problems much better than writing could.
A wife is basically an attractive lady that you get to hang out with, do fun things with, talk with, have sex with, and just share life with, in general. Where I used to find my daydreams drifting toward publishing an article in the “New Yorker”, my daydreams lately seem to drift toward imagining I have a wife to come home to after work.
Children might also be really, really awesome to have. Children are basically just cute little babies that you cuddle, look after, and love. And since you share that love between you and your wife, it strengthens your own relationship in a unique way. As they grow up, you can teach them things, grow as a better parent, and find new expressions of love compatible with their age, interests, and community. It really seems like a family would be amazing.
People say, “But David, becoming a staff writer at the ‘New Yorker’ and having a family are not mutually exclusive.” Here’s why I think they’re wrong for saying that: the very thing that makes me passionate about writing are the things that good husbands and fathers do not have. I like the instability financially, philosophically, and personally. I like writing whatever and whenever I want, travelling whenever and wherever I want. I plan on taking at least 10 years from now before I make real, significant money from writing. New York is 2000 miles away from my friends and family.
Good husbands and fathers are stable- financially, philosophically, and personally. They aren’t going to change religions or move to San Jose for 4 months without notice. They aren’t going to criticize a way of life that majority of readers hold sacred. They make a consistent paycheque, hold solid and simple beliefs, and live close to their family and friends. Basically, they don’t live out the entirety of their professional ambitions in favour of their family.
Now that I make consistent money from “Airbnb”, “Skip The Dishes”, and “Uber”, I could theoretically support a family in just a couple years. By the end of the summer, I will have a $5000 surplus ($1900 coming from my PayPal account, $1000 from my tax return, and another $2000 in profit from the “Airbnb”). I want to spend about $2000 of the money to go to New York for a week so I can go to the “New Yorker” festival and meet Malcolm Gladwell and some of the other writers that I love. But a responsible husband and father doesn’t drop nearly half of his savings for a random trip. A responsible husband and father doesn’t spend the majority of the summer reading books and writing articles when he could be earning more money.
In fact, if I quit reading and writing and spent all of that time driving “Uber” and “Skip The Dishes”, instead of a $5000 surplus by the end of the summer, I could have a $10,000 surplus (or more). I could save up enough by summer of 2020 to buy my own house and make significant money from “Airbnb” with it (possibly in the range of $4000/month with $2000/month paying the mortgage).
A responsible husband and father would not be doing what I’m doing now- sitting in a coffee shop writing this useless article during peak supper delivery times. He would be out working- thinking about his RRSPs, RESPs for the kids, and how to buy more rental properties. He wouldn’t be reading Bertrand Russell and Henry David Thoreau’s impractical, abstract philosophical speculations. He would be reading the holy book his wife and him believe in, the local newspaper, and his financial statements.
I want a wife and children more and more these days, it would seem. I think if I went to Mormon board game nights, regurgitated the “proper doctrines” every week at church, and put my mind towards more practical, financially driven pursuits, I would be able to get a wife and children. I would love them a lot, and it would probably be great, but I would die a little inside. There’s a weird, obsessive passion that is intrinsic to who I am. No one understands it (sometimes not even me). It’s a passion that drove a depressed 21 year old to become obsessed with Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a passion that inspired a 22 year old to write absurd but incredibly well reasoned blog posts about why Christianity is racist and sexist, and marriage is an innately flawed institution. It’s a passion that drove a 23 year old to follow his heart and join the Mormon church, despite everything his social community said, and to refuse to do the last course of his degree, simply out of a rejection of the social constructs obfuscating the meaning of a true education.
But why now, at 24, does this passion deviate its iconoclastic, vagabond, seclusive, sanctimonious, eruditic course, in favour of a “family man”? How does this newly discovered “Edmonton family man” co-exist with the already existing “staff writer at the ‘New Yorker'”? Will the “Edmonton family man” tuck his children into sleep, kiss his wife, and look out the window of his $500,000 house to dream of New York, to reminisce about the philosophy that once entertained his mind and challenged the minds of others, to wonder how he might have influenced elections with powerfully written and researched articles? Will the “staff writer at the ‘New Yorker'” write a well researched and incredibly influential article, and on the drive home, see a family at the park playing together, and break into tears at the knowledge of the wife he could’ve slept next to each night, and the children he could’ve cuddled to sleep and taught to ride a bike?
I don’t know. I hope the 25 year old has that figured out.