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Praying to Our Less Practical Selves: Want vs Need


Sitting on the porch, glass of wine in hand, my best friend and I were trying to solve a problem. It was late. There were fireflies, and there was something completely wonderful about talking together that evening. The air had diminished from oppressive to pleasantly warm. There was a slight breeze, and the only noise was the faint hum of a baseball game drifting over from a neighbor’s house. For the record, nights like that are much, much better than therapy.

The discussion, however, evolved into an interesting one, a dissection of want vs. need. It might be a query without an actual answer, an idea without a destination. Because it is difficult to differentiate, sometimes, the precariously drawn line between want and need. Sometimes, one masquerades as the other – and sometimes, what we want is what we need or what we need is what we want. How can you extricate that? I’m not sure I know.

Eventually, we decided that ultimately being a grownup (or pretending to be one) is insanely hard. When you’re a kid, you want simple things: to play, to sleep, to eat, to love, and to be loved. These things are, or should be, readily accessible. But when you venture into the adult world, either by accident or design, somehow those things become more difficult to obtain. Responsibilities encroach on desires. Things demand our time. We get lost in the pursuit of things we’re instructed to do, things we’re told we should do, and it can cause us to lose sight of what we actually need. Throw in a few wants, and the world becomes a confusing place.

We want to be happy. How often do we say that? A lot. But I think that’s a case of NEED, not want. Because in order to be the best version of ourselves, I think we need happiness in whatever measure we can obtain it. Without striving toward happiness, we lose something – some vital part of ourselves that gets bogged down by the weighted clawing of life.

It can be nearly impossible, occasionally, to figure out if something is a want or a need. For me, personally speaking, I am not exactly good at needing people. The list of people I need, honestly, is very short. I realized, recently, that I am not very skilled at needing, because it makes me vulnerable. I’m usually the person people need, for whatever reason, and I’m woefully unaccustomed to the opposite. It throws me off. It makes me uncertain. I start to wonder if what I think is a need is a want and vice versa. Which brings me back to the discussion with my BFF.

I think that we decided that want and need often overlap. That something doesn’t have to be one or the other; it’s an and, instead of an or (shout out to Into the Woods). We can want and need someone or something; we can want and need to do something. Of course, that’s a tricksy spot to be in then, because what then? Where does that leave you? A lot of the time we’re instructed that blatantly going after what you want is either good or bad. It depends on the circumstances and situation. It is a confusing moment, trying to figure out what’s right. No, not right. Right’s too banal, too easy a word. Best. It’s trying to figure out the best solution.

Call or not call? Ask or don’t ask? Say yes or no? Offer or hold back? Try or don’t? Wait or run?

Those questions, by themselves, mean nothing without context. With context, comes emotion. And with emotion, everything whirls around like a hurricane on a tilt-o-whirl. Or, as Lorelai Gilmore said, “once your heart gets involved, it all comes out in moron.” A thousand times YES. For an emotions-based person, it’s a strange plane of existence, figuring out what’s right amid a sea of feelings. If something is a want and a need, what then? How does one come to a conclusion? Flip a coin? Consult a magic eight ball? Read the tarot? I’m not sure I know.

Some things must be considered carefully. Other decisions should be made based on feelings. It is often a strict challenge to figure out which is what, and when, and why. I’m not sure I have the answer, and until I KNOW, I rarely do. The more complicated a situation is, the more cautious I attempt to be. But the secret is: I’m not very good at caution, sometimes. I’m a blundering, heartstruck, foolhardy girl. I’m a dreamer without repentance. I’m a believer. I believe in people and things. Sometimes, that makes me very Pollyanna. Sometimes, it leaves me the fool. Sometimes, what follows is extreme doubt.

But not this time. Not this place. Believing is a thing of strength. I can be strong enough for two people. I can believe more than most. I’m an impossible dream kind of person. (Now, I’ll be signing that song for the rest of the day.)

If something is a want and a need, I think it’s wise to take a moment and be still. Contemplate which is stronger, which is more true, and act accordingly. Because sometimes, even if we need something, the best choice is putting someone else’s needs before our own. It’s not selfless. It’s an act of love, though. It’s saying, I love you enough to do this for you. Inherently, perhaps, we’re selfish creatures, worshiping our inner five years olds, praying to our less practical selves. But actively deciding to do, or not do, something because of our love for someone else? That may be the bravest, strongest thing of all.

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