What living vicariously really means

The other day, a friend of mine stumbled upon the expression "living vicariously" while reading a book and asked me what it meant. It wasn't the first time someone I had fielded this very question.

Vicariously simply means that you're experiencing something indirectly, like when your friend's vacation feels like your own. Vicariously is the adverb form of the word vicarious, which also signifies experiencing something through another person.

An avid reader, I'll be the first person to admit that I often live vicariously through the people I read about in books. I'm an avid American history buff and am always reading books that center on the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.

There are two I enjoy reading more about than the rest, though: Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Not only did they found the nascent republic's first two political parties -- the Federalist party and Democratic-Republican party -- but they were arguably the most prolific writers of their time. Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence and wrote roughly 20,000 letters. Hamilton, for his part, penned approximately 22,000 pages worth of letters, manuscripts, and articles and is perhaps best known for having coauthored the Federalist Papers.

As someone who writes both for fun and for a living, I find it flabbergasting that they could write so much in their lifetimes. That goes double for Hamilton, whose body of work was astonishing considering he was killed in a duel at the age of 49. (Jefferson lived to the ripe old age of 83.) What's even more remarkable is the fact there weren't typewriters or computers around in the 18th and 19th centuries -- these guys wrote all these documents by hand!  This post would make the 1,074th entry on this blog; I can't imagine how many years it would take to match anything remotely close to their output.

What these two geniuses were able to accomplish is nothing short of impressive, and I often find myself churning out a slew of compositions daily, much like they did. Truthfully, I don't have the time to dedicate that many hours to writing -- as much as I'd love to -- but there's no harm in imagining it, right?

While there's nothing wrong with living vicariously through others every once in a while, we should guard against the temptation to make it a habit. Doing so borders on fantasy and escapism, and nothing should substitute for our personal, unique experiences.

Instead of enjoying vacations vicariously through the pictures your friends put on Facebook, take one on your own; you'll see how much more rewarding it is to get out there and explore the world for yourself.

I may never be able to write as much as Jefferson or Hamilton, but you can rest assured that I will strive to write as much as I possibly can. At the end of the day, my life is mine only to live.

You can always look up to and emulate other people, but resigning yourself to living vicariously through them all the time can prevent you from achieving your goals. In other words, if your dream is to become a singer, don't simply settle for watching videos and attending concerts featuring your favorite musician -- go out there and work hard to make a name for yourself! Even if you don't make it big in the industry, you'll at least know you gave it your best.

Without a doubt, we can accomplish and experience fantastic things independent of what others achieve and experience. 

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