The importance of wanting

Somewhere between birth and death, most of us forget how to want. We manage to find a plethora of excuses – not enough resources, not enough time, a lack of connections, a lack of skill; You name it, someone has used it. No infant can live without wanting… but as we get older, we learn that in many ways, we can survive without wanting much more than shelter, food and a subscription to Netflix. We say it’s enough to get a paycheck, pay the rent and have a little left over for a (ridiculously expensive) pint of Edy’s Slow Churned ice cream (at least in New York). Wanting something “more” out of life? Who cares? Wanting doesn’t seem to get anyone anywhere.

I’ll tell you where wanting got me. At ten years old, I wanted nothing more in the world than a Game Boy Color. My Pokemon obsession was getting to the point where the cards and TV show weren’t enough. I wanted to live the game. I wanted to train Pokemon from Level 1 to 100. I wanted to be the very best, like no one ever was.

In the world of Pokemon, growth was constant. There was no chill-out-in-Pallet-Town option; you had to keep moving forward and grow. And I liked that feeling. I liked the feeling of being able to surely, steadily push myself out of my comfort zone; to evolve alongside my most trusted companions, each in our uniquely distinct way. At ten, I couldn’t verbalize why Pokemon was so important to me, but that’s where my actions came into place.

A Game Boy Color cost $100. It would take months of allowance to earn that on my own. On top of that, Pokemon games cost $30 a piece. With the long days of summer around the corner (the perfect time to increase thumb dexterity), I was eager to make the purchase. Luckily, my younger brother had the same desire. In a rare act of complete unification, we promised each other that we would combine our allowances to buy a brand new Game Boy Color. Until the day we went to the electronic store, neither of us would invest in any other toys – no Barbies for me, no radio-control cars for him. Our goal was straightforward and binding.

I can clearly remember walking into the small appliance store with my mother and brother. Though I haven’t been there since, I still have a vivid image of buffed toasters, radios and television sets lining a tight corner of shelves. Inside a class box below stood a spread of Game Boys. My brother and I looked up at the burly, bearded salesman- heads taller than us- and relayed that we were in business for a Game Boy Color.

“What color would you like?” he inquired.

During the weeks of saving, we had deliberated over this matter thoroughly. Our Game Boy was going to be purple.

The man went to a backroom out of our sight, and then returned with a small, colorful cardboard box. We handed over the money, and he handed over the game console. Never in my life had I felt so sure that I was making a good investment. It would be weeks before we could afford the Pokemon game, but we had the platform for all future adventures in our hands. All those weeks of planning, dreaming and wanting had finally manifested into reality.


For those who believe that wanting is futile, I agree with you. In English.

In English, ‘want’ has a very passive connotation. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, to want is to “desire,” “to wish for something,” “to need,” “to be without.” Wanting is something that kind of just happens to us. We like to following its intriguing allure, but we are in no way responsible for where it leads us – if we even choose to follow.

In Hebrew, wanting works a little bit differently. In Hebrew, ‘want’ is called rotzeh.

Ani rotzeh mayim

Ani rotzeh ham’sachek

Rotze ani lehiyot gibur hechi shehba’olam

But rotzeh doesn’t translate directly into ‘want,’ it translates into ‘will.’

will have water.

I will have that game.

will be the very best, like no one ever was.

When I have a will, it’s not some far off dream that would be nice to achieve, but is just a little too far out of our reach. A will lives deep within us; the impetus of our desires. And at the same time, a will is something that requires commitment; choosing to  do everything in our power to make it reality.

Merriam-Webster seems to agree with me on this one as well. ‘Will’ is “used to express, desire, choice, willingness, consent…frequent customary or habitual action…used to express futurity, determination, insistence, persistence.” In fewer words, will is pointed, conscious volition. ‘Will’ takes one step further than ‘want’ by saying,”I know it’s my destiny.” I can’t do it all perfectly, but I won’t give up on my desires, which are steeped in purpose and meaning.

Whichever word you prefer to use – the English or the Hebrew – the importance of wanting remains the same. The right wants and wills make life worth living; they bring people together and test our ability to accomplish. Oftentimes, wills remain unexplored and unfulfilled – abandoned from the fear of failure. Abandoned wills frustrate and upset us. They deplete us of a sense of reason and responsibility.

Pegging down my own wills has had its challenges, but luckily, I had good training early on in life. Playing Pokemon took a lot – saving, planning, enlisting the help of my younger brother – yet none of that mattered. I knew what I wanted. I knew what I willed… and when a want turns into a will,  it becomes a lot easier to see “the power that’s inside.”

About the Author
Eliana is a Bostonian-New Yorker (okay, and a Jersey Girl) who made aliyah from Manhattan's Washington Heights community in July 2016. Ever since then, she's been writing about the wonderfully unpredictable journey of 'living the dream' as a Millennial from the West (note: sense of humor strongly encouraged). She serves as the Alumni Affairs and Special Programs coordinator at Yeshiva University in Israel.