Q&A: Author Po Bronson

Most people in their journey make mistakes and take wrong turns before they realize where they should have gone. It's not something to beat yourself up about. Assuming you're in a position where you can make a change — rather than in one where you have to wait, be patient and make the best of it — in that direction to Albuquerque is the best way to head.

I interviewed dozens of people who took that route, and while not all of them necessarily succeeded in a conventional sense, they all felt there was something there they needed to explore and something there they needed to learn about themselves. None regretted making the change.

Carmen from Orlando, Fla.

"What should I do with my life?" is the question I've been asking myself for some time now. I started working when I was 13 years of age. Married at 21, have two children, and still happily married to my H.S. sweetheart. Somehow I've been feeling kind of an emptiness inside. At 34 years of age, I still don't know what I want. I am a hard worker, but I am not happy where I am right now.

I am a native of the Caribbean. I miss the beach. I miss tranquility. I love French antique furnishings. I love to decorate my house. I would love to work from my house or have my own business. And yet, I don't know how to put it all together. How do you support a family on selfish dreams?

Po Bronson

Carmen, that's a very poignant finale: "How do you support a family on selfish dreams?"

The people in my research who succeeded learned that your responsibilities don't keep you from your purpose — they're part of your purpose, often the most important part.

In the book, I tell the story of one young man who considered himself on a quest. Suddenly his quest was put on hiatus when he unexpectedly got his girlfriend pregnant, got married, and had to get a job. I worked with him until he could see that his quest hadn't ended but just matured into this stage where it included real-life practicalities.

It's important to find your dream that works for you and your family needs. It begins just one little step at a time. People don't reinvent themselves overnight as French antique dealers on a Caribbean island. They mature into that over a period of time.

So it starts as an interest, an interest becomes a hobby, a hobby becomes something that helps you get to know others in the industry, until you begin to see that it's in fact a life that others have chosen and are making work and seems more doable to you.

Wanting a dream that takes you away from your family is selfish and irresponsible, but wanting to be your best self so you can by fulfilled, be a great role model for your children, and a source of joy for those around you is not selfish — it's part of doing God's work.

Jennifer in Austin, Texas

Hi, just wondering — what advice do you have for how to reconcile wildly impractical dreams with the hard, dull facts of economic necessity, especially for single parents?

Like most single mothers, I've got to work, and in many ways, my job is very fulfilling. But I'm REALLY happiest alone, listening to music, writing, reading, asking questions, exploring issues and ideas in fiction, essays and screenplays. I'm a big chicken about sending my stuff out, so, so far, it's a pathetically bubble-like, insular experience. I know I've set myself up for failure by not letting the rest of the world in on mine. But I also wonder if I'm just a big, self-absorbed idiot. Who cares what I think?

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