Two weeks ago, I wrote about a couple of sorry fellows who were in bad marriages and wished they were single, as I have been since June 4. I spoke directly to those two guys in that column, but I also spoke on a higher level to everyone else.
That column generated several online comments, but it also prompted many more people to write privately to me to tell me that I had struck a nerve, that they are now or have been in a relationship that just died for lack of attention.
Savvy readers will have realized that while the message that day was to appreciate the relationship you have and to nurture it instead of longing for something or someone else, it was really a message about how to live a life.
That longing is not restricted to relationships. It is directly related to the column I wrote the following week, in which I described my daughter's pursuit of her passion for theater instead of a more traditional work role. Kaitlyn, after all, was going to be a doctor — the occupation recommended to her by the test results she received before entering college.
But she doesn't want to be a doctor; not now, anyway. She wants to be involved in the theater in some way, whether it is onstage or backstage.
I have told her that even if she fails — that is, even if she fails to make a career out of her passion — she will have accomplished something that most people she'll meet can never claim: She will not have the regret of never pursuing what she believes she is meant to do.
A month ago, I met Susan on a train traveling from Chicago to San Francisco. She was traveling with her daughter, Elaine, to meet up with another daughter and take a coastal car tour and college scouting excursion.
Susan is a successful real estate broker back east.
"My daughter thinks I should be a writer," Susan said. "And I'd really like to, but … "
As her voice trailed off, I asked her if being a writer is something she'd like to do.
"Oh, yeah," she said. She gave me the look that indicated she'd be a writer when a cow jumps over the moon.
"What's really stopping you?" I asked.
"Well, for one thing, I have a business to take care of. That's how I make my living."
I told Susan that before I was a writer, I too was a business owner.
"My transition wasn't easy," I said, "but controlling my desire to write was not possible, so I worked really hard at being as good as I could as fast as I could."
Susan is not probably not going to be a writer. She has deep roots in her career and is not the risk-taker that she needs to be in order to change careers in such a dramatic way.
Susan is not alone; she is normal. There are millions of Susans in America, working at jobs that provide them with a living and little more. And that's OK for most of us. For most of us, it's OK to go to work, do what we do, and come home again.
But I know from reading those private emails that we live in an area that has a lot of people who want to take a leap of faith toward their passion, but lack the courage.
To those readers, I offer that there is something worse than that leap of faith. What's worse is what my daughter will never know, namely the regret attached years later to wishing you had followed your heart.
As I have written here before and will continue to write from time to time: "If not now, when?"
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.