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choices are limits


This shot was taken at our restaurant, Uptown Sushi.

I ate sushi with a friend yesterday, around noon. It was a leisurely lunch at the bar pictured above, and we got to spin out our stories and develop our thoughts more than usual. By the end, we’d agreed on a few things.

One is that you absolutely have to find a way to unite your job and your passions. There simply isn’t enough time to do anything else.

For a long time I thought I could do my work during the day and then make time for my interests at night. When you add in commute and food prep time, however, there’s nothing left. It’s a trap to think you can use your savings or some magical 1000% efficiency weekend hour to somehow escape out of that hole. If you’re going to find personal fulfillment, it will, by necessity, involve the union of your job and your passions. You have to pull to bring the far ends together.

This is assuming plentiful time, too, a kind of ‘no insurance’ ideal that means no children, no serious time-sink events, etc. That’s not sustainable, and in the long term, not realistic. You have to make your ‘passion’ and ‘work’ one if they’re going to have a shot at becoming real.

We also talked about tradeoffs. I more clearly see the cost of my choices in time now, and how professional advancement often comes at a human social cost, and vice versa.

There’s a limited amount of time that you can sink into building your professional skills or investing in friends and relationships. The truth is that you simply have to make some hard choices about your work, the people in your life, and how you’re going to reconcile them.

There are no easy answers. We already have all kinds of narratives to justify every kind of choice, but I think it makes sense to stop for a moment and recognize that the choices are difficult, and the answers are not guaranteed. Behind every rich social life there’s an opportunity cost in missed professional opportunities. Behind every fast-tracked career, there are countless social  connections that never happened.

That’s life, unfortunately.

We also talked about some of the good choices we’ve made, and how they’ve paid off. My friend talked about attaining competence, and then more, in his drawing; I talked about being able to move to a city I love, under conditions that will allow me to truly enjoy it.


We’re both making moves now, but beyond a certain point, as much as we may obsess over it, we’re just making guesses. He talked about trusting his instincts; I said, there’s really no way to tally all these variables. You make a back-of-the-napkin calculation and then jump.

You try to enjoy where you are, too. There’s a Tibetan saying: “when in the body of a donkey, enjoy the taste of grass.” It took a long time for our food to come, so we drank our tall waters to the bottom and used the waiter-free time to talk.

There were all these sensations around us: the chic white darkness of the interior of Uptown Sushi, a pleasant change from the blazing sun, once you adjust to it; a group of women my friend pointed out; even the sushi chefs in front of us, who, with this court-side view, were meticulously working the knife to slice thin pieces of fish and using rolled-up tatami mats to shape the food. It was nice to be there, to belong, during a lunch hour with all these other strivers, diners and servers.

You ask yourself if you’re making the right choices.

Who knows?

That’s life, too.


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