“I’ve always believed the greater danger is not aiming too high, but too low, settling for a bogey rather than shooting for an eagle.” –Peter Scott
I have thought a lot about the idea of settling lately. Like nearly everything in life, there are two sides to the argument, multiple perspectives to the idea. Settling can be bad and good, life and death, enough or disappointment.
I watched an episode of the Bonnie Hunt Show where the staff was discussing the book Marry Him!: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Mary Gottlieb. I have not read it myself, but the jist seems to be that we have so many little hang ups, such high expectations and dreams about the man we will love, that we miss amazing people. We imagine that our husband will be tall and Catholic so we do not give the short Baptist a chance. With all of these trivial criteria, we let wonderful people slip by us. To settle is to be realistic, to accept the flaws and see what really matters. It’s learning to throw out preconceptions and plans and be open to finding love where we might not have imagined. Perfection is overrated. We are told to settle for nothing but the best. Why eat Hershey when Godiva is available? We spend our lives trying to be the best, be first, be perfect, and miss so much along the way. Life is messy and we need to be willing to settle for something different, something we never expected. We need to see that “good enough” really is enough, is fulfilling and satisfying.
Then the flip side is that “good enough” is not “good,” let alone “great.” It is not what we truly want, it’s what we can get. Settling is selling our dreams, our plans, ourselves short. We fear that something better will come, that we deserve more, that we’re tapping out before the fight is over. It’s the tension that drives the mediocre Deal or No Deal game show. Do you push on? Are you being offered enough? Is there something better waiting to be discovered?
I’m flailing somewhere in the middle of these two points. I am settling left and right in my life. I have begun to try harder to get a new job, but for three years, a job I hate has been enough. Times are hard and a paycheck was worth settling for. I feel unchallenged and degraded, but I’ve begun to feel like there is not much else for me. I used to dream big, hope high. I’ve come to question why I think I’m better than this, what makes me so sure that I deserve more. I have thought momentarily about pursuing a credential to teach. I love children and language, but I can’t bring myself to become a teacher. Since I was young, I’ve been told I would be a great teacher. I studied English, so every person I meet asks if I plan to teach. I feel an anxiety attack come on when I think about teaching not because I don’t think I’d like it, but because it feels like settling. I feel cornered, pigeon-holed before I could choose. I don’t want to settle, but I have been for years.
I think about relationships. Do you hold out for the one who is perfect, the one who might be out there? Or do you settle for someone good and kind, someone who is willing to settle for you? Even in my friendships I settle. I hang out with friends from work because my other friends have moved away. I do what they want just to not be alone. And it all feels worth it, to not be alone. But they are not people I would choose for friends, if I could afford to choose. They don’t challenge me, support me, bring me joy, but I settle for them because they are here, willing. Sometimes it’s enough, and for that I am grateful. Sometimes it’s not enough, and for that I feel all the more lonely.
So what do you do? What do I do? Do you take “good enough” and enjoy what you have? There is something to be said for enough, for adequate, for average. Friends are better than no one. A crappy job is better than unemployment. Or do you refuse to settle? Do you decide that you earn, need, deserve, want more? Do you refuse to settle for something less, demanding the best? Do you fight and work for what you want, risk not achieving it, for the chance that you will? I don’t know. I have no answers here. I just feel like across the board, I have settled for a lot in the past three years. Some days it feels okay, like I expected too much and enough really is enough. Other days, I am overwhelmed with fear that I have settled too often and missed my chances to try. It’s two sides of the same coin. Maybe it depends on the situation, the thing you are settling for, and how much you are willing to sacrifice. Maybe it doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice, so you can stand to put away the dreams. Or maybe it’s too big, too important to accept less than you want. How do you tell? And how do you cope when “good enough,” isn’t?
“There’s something to be said about a glass half full. About knowing when to say when. I think it’s a floating line. A barometer of need and desire. It’s entirely up to the individual. And depends on what’s being poured. Sometimes all we want is a taste…” –Grey’s Anatomy