Bursting the independence bubble


You know how you grow up with an idea of what independence is? You know, especially as a teenager, that you will “grow up,” graduate high school and be independent. You will make your own decisions; you will do whatever you want to do. You will be on your own. And it seems like that is what true independence is. After talking with a lot of teens (you know, like) recently who (fine one of whom) asked my opinion on being independent (hey, the others asked my opinion on headphones!), I realized that I didn’t really have an easy answer or even any answer on the subject. At least not that was appropriate in the setting. So I think I stammered off something about the importance of decision-making skills in being independent. But I started thinking, as I have before on the subject.

Independence is viewed differently around the world. Here you turn 18 and move out! You have your own place, your own mode of transportation, your own stuff. It’s yours. You’re officially independent. Your happiness. Your choices. Your life. But around the world, particularly in collectivist cultures, you don’t move out. Not in that way. Families stay together. They live in the same homes or on the same property. They work together to raise the children and grandchildren. They gather often. They celebrate often. Independence is not created by a person’s ability to live on their own. Independence is, in many cases, considered to be when one can contribute to the family through work, through parenting, through assistance, even at a young age. It is responsibility that makes you independent. Because it gives you the ability to make choices.

And I think there is a lot of truth to that idea. That it is our ability to make choices that makes us independent. And whether or not we make good choices, choices that will grow us as individuals, grow us as families, and grow us as communities makes all the difference. Many times the quality of our choices determine whether or not we can remain independent by the definition we have when we are young. Can we live on our own? Not if we make poor choices. Is it in our best interest to live on our own? That is a deeper question, and of much more importance than if we can live on our own. Most of us here live on our own, but if something were to go wrong, an accident, a disaster, a lost job, any unexpected news then many of us wouldn’t be able to sustain ourselves. What makes independence great, is that when we have enough forethought we can truly go where we want to go. The understanding that independence does not necessarily mean functioning in singularity, but instead functioning in a manner that contributes to bettering, furthering ourselves and our passions makes all the difference in the world. That is the only place we can find true independence. And that independence gives us the grace to fall and to get back up, instead of falling without end.


(On a side note you should absolutely give my book to everyone you know this year. It’s cheap, life-changing, fun, smart, great, easy to read, and easy to order. You do it from home, no holiday crowds to deal with. And that’s always a plus! So why not knock those people you have no clue what to get off the list in one, pleasantly fell swoop??)

About laurenc129

I'm a mom. Sometimes my hands turn orange. Other times I write. On twitter: @laurenc129

Posted on December 4, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 54 Comments.

  1. Americans have always had a unique way of defining independence. We value the “me against the world” mentality more than nearly all other folks around the world do. I think there has always been this difference between ours and other cultures. But it is much more recent that independence has come with a drift away from family life. I’ve traveled the world quite a lot, and I find so many things about other cultures that I remember experiencing as a kid (I’m 50+ by the way). Example: women I now meet in Asian or African villages have much more in common with my great grandmother than with anyone else I can name.

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog.

    Interesting post. I’m still figuring out what it truly means to be independent myself. You mention responsibility, and I think that’s very true. When you become responsible for friends, family, and yourself, and when you can maintain a network of people, I think you are on your way to independence.

    I remember having the whenever, whatever teenage attitude. Ah, sweet ignorance.

  3. Just found you after you visited my blog. Great stuff. Just bought your book and downloaded it to my kindle. Happy holidays.

  4. This consideration of “independence” in this way produces a very interesting train of thought. I’ve really never focused specifically on it that way. Thank you for planting that seed.

    If I were to take a quick, unstudied stab at defining independence, I’d probably say it comes when you are no longer just taking but giving back as well.

    As children we are dependent upon our parents. For the last couple of years I have been the caregiver for my father. He’s 89 and has a condition called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. I’ll be taking care of him for the duration. Now he is “dependent” upon me. Full circle.

    I really don’t think individual independence is all it’s cracked up to be. We are gregarious creatures. We are wired for interdependence.

    Unfortunately there are a few among us who seek dominance over the rest. One of the ways they go about gaining it is by isolating us from each other and telling us it’s a good thing; it’s independence.

    I don’t think so.

    And thanks very much for visiting The Baby And The Bathwater.


  5. Great read as usual Lauren… loved your Beatles tweet by the way ❤

  6. Where I come from, independence is never completely achieved physically because we have no notion of moving out once we’re of legal age. Independence for me, in the best context of my world, is finding out the balance between being part of a very close family and pursuing individual goals and dreams. Thanks for liking my poem!

  7. I moved out when I was 21 – I bought my own home then. I thought I was being independent at the time, and to some extent I was, but I think it’s almost impossible to be truly independent in our society.

    Absolute independence would mean not having to rely on anyone… but that would also mean no phone, TV or internet. You might get your news or your email from the TV or the internet but you’re still relying on others to give that information to you. You’re not literally finding that information out for yourself.

    Therefore, absolute independence would truly mean not just living on your own, but also completely apart from society and totally self-sufficient too. And as much as sometimes we might daydream about “getting away from it all” I think that scenario would be extremely challenging in so many different ways.

    We’re not independent… we just rely on others to varying degrees….

  8. Independence for me happened when I was 17 and was given the front door key and told not to disgrace the family name:-) I think my mother’s hopes were set a little too high for that one!

  9. I finally realized what I wanted to be when I was “grown up.” RETIRED! And now I’ve made it.
    See what happens next!

  10. I guess teens being teens at that rebellious age, wants more freedom. Funny thing is as with all ages, they should realize time doesn’t turn back. They’re only 17 once – they don’t enjoy it now, and just keep running after “independence” then soon they will never be 17 again. But yeah, then again, that’s life. Each his own path to grow. Nevertheless I like the perspective you’re approaching independence. Not “apart” but “a part”.

  11. That is very true…I belong in Pakistan where our family system is very strong and we stick together in the thick and thin. You understand how perfectly well…and I feel people do need to understand these days that independnce is not just a show of being able to support yourself alone, but as you said, the ablity to make choices for ourselves, even if those choices turn out to be binding.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your insights here! I appreciate it. I had a friend growing up who was from Pakistan. And she always said the same thing. They were very family oriented, and made it a point to keep their relationships strong, both here in the US and abroad.

  12. Thanks for the thumbs up Lauren! I followed you right here, the title of your blog & this post in particular is just what I need right now! I’ll come back to read more of it all.

  13. Thanks for reading my blog – and your post has such great words for where my sons are at! I remember the journey when I was finding my independence, I am surprised at how I am experiencing it as a mom. Thanks for your reminder of what “independence” is.

  14. Great piece. Here in Peru people live with their families until they get married and have children and even then you can find lots of extended families living together, regardless of their socioeconomic class. Rich families will purchase large lots where each kid will eventually build their future family’s house next to each other. In the US (I’m guessing you’re American) I think we take individuality too far, so far that we forget to appreciate the people who have helped us be who we are. We need each other and we need to support one another with love and understanding. Interdependence or collectivism is what makes the world go round. 🙂

    • Ha, yes, I am American. Two of my cousins are actually married to Peruvian women 🙂 I love the concept of interdependence, simply because when it boils down to it, we have to be interdependent. It’s the only way we can all survive. Thanks so much for sharing here! I really appreciate it!

  15. update: Just bought the book with the 1-click option. will be reading that!

  16. Wow I love this post. Especially where you have a book! I’m going to check that out right away. I love reading on my kiddle app on my iphone. I want to someday have a book on Amazon as well. I would love to have you as a mentor. Maybe we can set up an interview through e-mail so I can post it on my blog! 🙂

    • Sure 🙂 And I recommend writing a book to everyone… we all have a (maybe more) story to tell 🙂

      • I’m so excited! I love the book, I can’t put it down. I’m about 2/3rds of the way in it. I feel like i’m almost reading my life story, there are so many similarities. I feel that I’m so lucky to have you as my first follower and as a new friend! This is definitely one of the greatest investments in my life. I feel like you are almost like my rainbow shirt in life 🙂 of what i’m supposed to do next in my life once i graduate college next week.

        Is there any other way that I can contact you? like e-mail?

      • I’m glad you are liking it so far!! And that is so kind of you to say, I don’t even know what to say! 🙂 And yes, it’s lacsilvergirl@gmail.com …. And congratulations on graduation!! That’s an awesome achievement!

      • I have just finished the book. I think it’s one of those ones that I will read again and maybe even a few more times. Maybe even a little each day for inspiration.

        After reading that, and the small interaction we’ve had so far, I feel like someone really understands me, and is almost a mirror of me. It was so amazing, healing, and life changing.

        I didn’t even realize the importance of self-worth and what it means to me. I think I’m definitely going to do a book review on my blog of it. Because it was just amazing. And is has the ability to awaken people and change their lives.

        Thank you so much just as you’ve considered before, I’m in business with a concentration of HR management. But i actually have been considering a masters in clinical psychology! maybe even PhD, which was crazy to read. Ok, i don’t want to give everything away. I’m going to email you!!

  17. Nice post. I think you are right when saying “it is our ability to make choices that makes us independent. And whether or not we make good choices”. I suppose that is also the definition of ‘responsibility’.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my post.

  18. Great post! So does freedom also means independence?

  19. I liked your comments on independence. Just to add one note. Independence, in the sense of being able to choose how we will respond, has been ours from the beginning. Even as children, we can choose to leave the cookie in the jar or obey our parents … or not. Yet as we grow older, we become more cognizant that there are others in our community, some family, some friends and others we don’t know or recognize. Yet we have a responsibility to each one. A truly independent person will make the right choice though it may not bring immediate benefit to himself.

  20. Thank you for reading my blog, I decided to return the favour and am glad I did!
    Many teenagers try to prove their independence by creating distance with ex authority figures; parents, older family members or friends. Though I believe being independent is a almost a frame of mind. A truly independent person will not believe estrangement is necessary. They will be happy to reach out to loved or close ones for advice, making the key final decision themselves.

    • Yes, I think so, too, which is what I was trying to explain. Independence and isolation or extradition are not the same, and the latter two are not required for truly functioning independently. Thanks taking the time to stop by, I appreciate it! 🙂

  21. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt ‘independent’ believe it or not. Before being married my mother looked out for me. Then at 18 my husband took over where my Mom left off. He took care of me and looked after everything connected to the finances etc . Of course I raised a family but again it was with the support of him

    Now as I’m older I’m feeling like I need to become a little more independent as I feel if anything were to happen to my husband I would be at a complete loss. I wrote a little about this recently “I just don’t understand’. And that referred to not having a clue as to how to pay a bill. So with the encouragement of some blogging friends…I sat down at the first of the month ….took notes ….and had my first lesson in our finances…I guess my first step in independence!….Diane

  22. Interesting thought. I wonder about this myself, since I’m 33 and still living with my mother, primarily for health reasons. But would I really like to live on my own? I’m not sure I would. I like being close to my family. Anyway, I like your post. 🙂

  23. I really like this alternative perspective on independence – far gentler and more nourishing, as well as more sustainable and practical. The planet would certainly enjoy more of us asking the question of whether we really need or want to live ‘alone’ and whether or not we can acknowledge our own interdependence with all life. In truth we can never exist independently, for however many steps removed there are always other people making our lives possible in the background.

    • I agree. We can’t survive without someone to take care of us. As infants, we truly have to have someone else keep us alive. We don’t function well in isolation. We don’t function well in the dark.

  24. I think you’re right about what independence is. But in our culture, we are taught a LOT of things that aren’t necessarily what the true definition is. I guess independence is one of those. I try to be all philosophical when young people are me for my opinion or for some guidance. I’m not sure if I do a good job, but I DO try to tell them about MY life and what they should definitely NOT do. Then I think back on it and say, “well, those things made me who I am today.” Life is really tough, and I don’t think anyone can truly understand it…ever! But that’s ok. Life is a mystery, and that’s fine by me. But all you can do is do the best you can when asked for advice. And I think you did well.

    Also, thanks for liking my post. 🙂

    • You’re welcome! And thanks for stopping by here and sharing! You are right. I really enjoy that life is a mystery. It makes it more fun. If you knew everything, what would be the point. 🙂

  25. Thanks for liking my blog post! I started following you. I just switched from blogspot to wordpress, and this is already very exciting!

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