Choose two of the three: career, family, community
The rule of threes
A little shot of wisdom I’ve repeated privately throughout the years: for a happy life you are allowed to pick two of three categories. You must choose two of career, family, or community. Implicitly, this comes with a warning—try to maximize all three and you will fail at all of them.
If this sounds a depressing maxim given its limitations, add in as much fuzziness as you like. Yet I doubt that you will be the exception. As with most simple wisdom, it’s hard to escape, and many of the common phases of life are really just a coming to terms with this limitation. Moving out to the suburbs is often implicitly an abandonment of the scene-like aspects of community, and turns the focus on career and family. Someone who chooses to stay in their hometown their whole life will likely not have a globe-trotting high-paying career, but they will have friends and a family life. That’s good, as good as it gets, really, just in a different way. Others’ lives, even those that look depressing or impossible to understand, are often merely the result of maximizing over different values.
For no matter what we might wish, these categories pull at one another, and the result is that we are restrained by invisible ties most people process only unconsciously over decades. You learn you can move like this, but not like that. It is better, I think, to be conscious about what is possible in a human life, and come to terms with it, instead of being sold an illusion.
So, which of the two?