At least not in my book, that is. Unless, of course, you’ve achieved the one thing I find to be truly valuable: freedom.
Freedom is not three weeks of vacation a year, accumulated after a decade of service to one company. Freedom is not the cash to fly anywhere in the world during those three weeks. Freedom is not being a VP or even a CEO. There is very little left in this nation which actually equates to real and true freedom. In fact, in the pursuit of happiness we often lose absolute freedom, if we were ever lucky enough to have it in the first place.
When you rent your first house, you’ve traded some amount of your freedom for one of many bills. Buying a dog, having children, even traveling can all make us happy, but they often mean giving up some freedoms. Dogs require attention. Kids require a lot of attention. Traveling means you’ll be living by random many different campgrounds or hotels and their rules.
We can get into relationships which suck the freedom right out of us. Differing expectations, an inability to provide space or a lack thereof, and diving in too deep before we do our due diligence can all get us caught in situations which are difficult to get out of, or even see that they’re happening.
Unfortunately, this story has no easy to summarize finale. I don’t have the answer, after 35 years on this planet, most of it searching for my own absolute freedom. I have traded it all away for the American dream. I’ve owned a house, had kids, bought cars and worked 8-5 and then a second job to keep those aspirations alive.
And then, time and again, I’ve shed the things which shackle me the most. It’s always, without fail, difficult to do. And then there’s a period of intense hesitation where the urge to go get it all back is overwhelming.
But I’ve never once backslid. I’ve always tried to get as close to the perfect balance of what makes me happy and how I can achieve that while not trading away my freedom. Freelancing, travel, and a general disdain for anything universally accepted as status quo have made this all possible.
I’m not always happy. I’m not completely free. But I am free to find my own path and make stupid mistakes and live with them or use them as stepping stones to another, better version of myself. At least, I’d like to believe that.
All I know is that I’ve seen most of this nation, and a few foreign countries, since I began a steady course to improving my life. I haven’t had to work for another company, punch a clock, or count vacation days in a decade. I’ve had the ability to take the morning, or entire week if necessary, off to hang out with my kids or my Lady. I’ve been able to move to new cities on a whim and then move again when they got boring. Most importantly, I’ve been the key determiner of my success, not by counting dollars but instead by counting the minutes of my life, and knowing that most if them have been spent according to my own schedule.
And that feels as close to freedom as you can get anymore.