The other day, I randomly recalled this surprisingly meaningful conversation that I had with my sister when we were kids. I don’t remember how old I was, but it was definitely while we were both still in primary school (she’s only a year older than I am), and I’m almost willing to bet that I was less than 10 at the time. Basically, we were just kids.
To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot about the conversation or how it came about (maybe we were at home listening to music?) but the general bones of the chat are still there in my mind. It all revolved around this one question: Would you rather be rich or famous?
I’m not sure why I suddenly thought of this conversation, or of this question – my memory can be a bit odd with what it wants to share with my conscious mind – but it made me stop and wonder if my answer has changed. I don’t think it has.
After having this random recollection, I went around asking a few friends what they thought of it. The overwhelming majority (i.e. everyone) immediately chose fortune over fame. This was the result I expected, but it was slightly disappointing nonetheless – I got the impression that people were just being really practical, or they had such a negative idea of what “fame” entailed that they chose fortune without hesitation. As such, I had to qualify the question by asking people to consider the ideal scenario of fame alongside the ideal scenario of wealth (because wealth has its drawbacks too).
In my mind, I thought of fame, in the positive sense, as being well-known, well-loved, and having people care about what you say and do. In regards to fortune, I suppose it’s about having secure finances and not having to worry about money. You can choose to be famous for whatever you want to be (but you cannot be rich), and you can be rich for whatever reason (provided you’re not also famous for it). I know it’s hard to get one without the other, but this is just a hypothetical scenario.
With these qualifying statements, everyone re-thought their response, but only one changed her answer. This made the overall result slightly less disappointing.
What I find interesting is that when my sister asked me this question all those years ago, I did not hesitate to choose fame. There were no qualifiers or conditions or careful definitions. I remember the answer just felt right. And, even now, I reckon I’d still choose fame. Well, that’s kind of what my gut instinct is telling me to choose.
But it doesn’t really make a great deal of sense for me because I am a very practical person, and I figure that money is the more practical choice. I’m also actually quite shy (although this probably depends on who you ask…) and, as a kid, I was really shy. Furthermore, I have no interest in celebrity gossip, and I don’t even follow any celebrities on any sort of social media. So why would I choose fame? Why would I still choose fame?
Having thought about this for a while, I think the answer is something to do with wanting to have an impact on people’s lives, or wanting to have some influence (or power, if you will) over other people and being able to make some sort of contribution in that way. I think that is why I chose fame – or at least part of the reason.
I’d be really interested to know if anyone else would choose fame as well, and their reasons for it. I have contemplated changing the question to include a time frame (e.g. If you could be rich or famous for one week (and then life returns to “normal”), which would you choose?) and I wonder if people’s answers would change then… I know mine wouldn’t.