Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Independence Has Its Price

I was inspired to write by the July 4th holiday this year. We’re so quick to wish our friends a happy Independence Day each year, but do we really understand what independence means? I think I do.

It’s not often I get really, truly introspective. I mean, I think it’s safe to say that I’m “self-aware,” but I don’t consider myself the type of person who stops at every step along to way to recount what’s happened. For some reason, though, yesterday and today I felt the need to do just that—reevaluate where I am in my life and how far I’ve come.

I don’t typically broadcast intimate details of my life to everyone. Hell, “The Next Big Thing” really hasn’t been centered on my hardships or perseverance. But I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned anyway, because I think it’s relevant in discussing independence and how costly it can be.

This year, Independence Day reminded me of my long journey to get here: my parent’s divorce at age 2, being raised by a single parent my whole life, coming out of the closet at just 14 years old, the disability of both of my parents while in high school, the financial instability that ensued, the academic success that came as a result of hard work and distraction from my personal life, putting myself through college, my mom’s death in 2005, running one of the best college publications of 2009, being selected as the standout student for UMiami’s School of Communication, moving to NYC during one of the worst recessions our country has ever seen, struggling to make it by holding two internships and a retail job, being recruited for a watershed position at a prestigious firm.

As you can see, my life has been characterized by two parallel stories—the first story of personal tragedy and heartbreak, and the second of academic and professional success.

Now, you may be saying to yourself “Wow, this kid has been through a lot and must be really messed up!” The former would be right, the latter would be wrong. Somehow, I’ve persevered through my hardships with little to no bruises—and emerged with a positive and optimistic outlook on life.

How did I accomplish this? I have no idea. My double-major in psychology wants to tell you something about resilience and how nature can overpower nurture in certain instances—or how nurture activates certain aspects of our nature and fails to activate others. Honestly, that’s psycho-babble bullshit.

At the end of the day, I’ve always maintained that happiness and success are a matter of choice. I choose to be happy and I’ve chosen—and will continue to choose—to be successful. I’m not saying they are easy choices to make—they are not. But they are there to be made, nonetheless.

Being independent has its price, though. Lately, I’ve felt the weight of debt from putting myself through school and loneliness from lack of personal time and romantic attention. I’ve also just felt “lost” in general, like I don’t know what the next step in my life is going to be—or how to get there.

These are the costs of independence: uncertainty and fear. But they must be dealt with. And so I’m going on record here to say that I promise myself that I will do whatever it takes to maintain my independence and that no matter how hard the choice to be happy and successful may be, I will make it.

Part of that promise involves learning how to say “no.”

Earlier, I tweeted, “I've forgotten how to say no—to myself and to others. That changes starting today.” And I mean it. “No” is an extremely powerful word—and a lot of times it’s equally as difficult to say to oneself as it is to others. But it’s necessary. My second promise to myself is to say “no” as often as I can. If it’s not in my best interest—financial, social or otherwise—the answer is “no.” And those who respect that answer will stay in my life—those who don’t, won’t.

It’s as simple as that.

Independence is not easy—the fourth of July reminded me of that this year. But I’ll be damned if it’s not worth every hurdle, obstacle and roadblock. You owe it to yourself to believe the same.

Because if you don’t pay the price for your own freedom, then who will?

[Image via quick5pnt0 on Flickr]

1 comment:

  1. How timely! I was just thinking about saying No this afternoon! I was waiting for a friend to get off work so I could go to Happy Hour and I thought, why am I doing this?

    I don't like waiting, I don't feel like Happy Hour and I don't feel like dealing with this friend today. And yet, I said yes out of some perverse obligation.

    And then I turned around and drove home, yelling No. So, I'm glad I'm not the only one who's learning how gratifying it is to say no!