On Middlemarch and Not Following Your Dreams

We spend a lot of time on 200kfreelancer encouraging writers, designers and other professionals to have the courage to create the lives and careers they want.

We recognize how much courage such a move takes. I’m in a group with some other writers working on novels and memoirs. One of them, Elizabeth Eshelman, recently shared with us a passage from Middlemarch (incidentally, we decided to read Middlemarch as a group project).

It’s one of the most powerful descriptions of the feeling of regret I’ve ever read.

The fear of regret can be a powerful motivator. So I’m sharing this passage as a reminder that, while becoming a freelancer might feel like a risky move, staying in a situation where you are unhappy is also risky. In the latter case, you run the risk that in years hence, you’ll feel the sense of regret that George Eliot describes so compellingly here.

(This is from Chapter 14).

For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardor in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardor of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly.

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