Can married people follow their dreams?

He wants to quit his job. He wants to quit his job because, he says, he has finally found his heart’s desire; to mentor the youth. He feels very strongly about it. And that is grand. Noble.

And yet because of his dream and his intention to pursue it, he finds himself seated in a hangout on a Thursday evening complaining to me, a strange woman, about women.

By ‘women’, he is referring to his wife. She won’t indulge him. She won’t take up the role of sole breadwinner for the unforeseeable time that it takes him to earn from his dream.

As a dreamer, I can relate because I go after my dreams with reckless abandon. I applaud him because not many people have that kind of tenacity. I empathize because I have been where he is; feeling trapped in mediocrity and feeling like you can’t breathe because you’re not so much living as you are going through the motions of existence.

I understand why he feels that his wife doesn’t love him because if she did, she would not insist that he stay on a job that he finds dissatisfying. She wouldn’t choose her comfort over his happiness, he says.

But I also understand that his wife fell in love with, and married a man with a stable job. They now have two children. So the pursuit of his dream will result in deprivation, not only for his wife but also for his children.

And yes, yes, “…for richer, for poorer…” but doesn’t the context matter? This isn’t something that is happening to them. Like being fired. Or being terminally ill. It is something he is choosing to do. And while his wife made vows, their children didn’t. So I don’t know if it is fair to them.

She probably loves him. But what is love, really, especially in terms of marriage? Is it still fleeting emotional irrationality? “I can’t breathe without you”?Or is it the practical, mundane stuff? “I go to work because I want you to have a roof over your head and food in your stomach”? Giving.

So if he stops giving, what is the measure of his love? Words of reassurance that his dream will one day come true? You can’t pay school fees with that.

There is a reason as to why world leaders and revolutionaries and most of the greats were/are estranged from their families. Following a dream requires a little selfishness and detachment. You can’t fully commit to it without ruining/sacrificing some very important relationships.

The importance of dreams cannot be overstated. All the world-shattering changes have happened because someone was courageous enough to take the plunge into the unknown.

Still, I think that when you consent to being a spouse or a parent, every decision thereafter has to be coherent and calculated because you have people who depend on you for love, provision, protection and stability.

You can no longer afford the luxury of going after what you want, anytime you want. You’re not an individual. You’re not a person. You’re people.