Priorities are an odd thing. When I was a kid, I was frequently told to remember my priorities. Thing was, they weren’t my priorities. They were things that I had to do, like homework. But I did listen to that advice, just not in the way my parents wanted me to. My top priority when I was a kid was reading. So that’s what I did all the time.
Now that I’m an adult, I have to bow a bit to my parents’ ideas of priorities. No one else is going to make me get to work on time or buy groceries so I don’t starve. When I graduated from college, all these adult responsibilities descended on me like some flying nightmare. And I’ve been struggling to identify my true priorities ever since.
I suppose it has something to do with self-actualization and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (which has always made sense to me, though I’m aware that it has been criticized). As little as I like to admit it, the basic necessities (food, shelter, sleep) do have to come first. And next, according to Maslow, is security, like employment. And then love and self-esteem. And only when someone has achieved all these things is there room in life for creativity. Practically, I recognize that this is true. If I spent all my time worrying about being unemployed or unable to keep my little family going, I’d have no energy for creativity. But if I were making my own hierarchy, I think I’d put creativity right after food. Because if I don’t have the opportunity to create, I’m still hungry no matter how full my belly is.
All this is very poetic, but like everything else, it comes down to day to day, moment to moment decisions. What should I do with myself today? What am I going to do in this very next moment? Can I write for another fifteen minutes and risk being late to work? Can I read for another hour or two at bedtime and be completely exhausted tomorrow? What are my real priorities? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for that. Not yet.