When I first read Hunter S Thompson’s remark that: “Freedom is a challenge. You decide who you are by what you,” I thought he was talking about one’s profession. I thought that freedom consists primarily of not getting up in the morning and going to work for someone else. So I extricated myself from the obvious indignities of wage slavery. But there is more to it than that. Life is not reducible to its component parts (job, family, relationships, hobbies, travel, etc.). I am the sum of all my choices and experiences. I can’t be free in one aspect of life if I am beholden to convention in others. It is axiomatic that freedom entails not behaving like a slave.
Paradoxically, bravery in one sphere tempts me to cowardice in other regards. Fear whispers that I must hoard courage like money, and spend it parsimoniously. A grinning goblin in my psyche tells me that if I resist convention by not having a nine-to-five job, a foot on the property ladder, or a ring on my finger I must appease it by other means. Deeper than logic lies the perverse notion that I have to prove my worth by conforming to a pre-packaged notion of success. I fret constantly about money, the lack of a permanent address, taxes, bills, debts, whether I’ll ever have a house, a car or a child, despite the fact none of these things figure in my personal definition of success. What I want is to be free to write, run, travel, lie in the sunshine, eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, love who I want, and ignore irrelevant opinions. Yet instead of enjoying my freedom, I worry myself sick about not having things I don’t want.
It is increasingly obvious if I advance boldly in one direction while retreating fearfully in another I’ll pull myself apart. I’ve wasted too much time on compromise; on bad jobs, unsatisfying relationships and self-defeating behaviour. I’ve always used fear of failure as an excuse, but it is only an excuse. Failure is more honourable than not trying