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??)