… the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to. – Jonathan Franzen
Explicitly or not, we are all told at many points of our lives from its very beginning ”Just be yourself and find something to do that makes you happy and …” so on and on. But what if you realize that in order to follow this somewhat tricky-ly wise advice you have to reject so many other things you supposedly should do and let go of the things which, as you are told, also matter.
Personally, I wasn’t raised only by my parents, besides the society’s opaque gibberish I’ve had my own fathers and mothers that have shaped who I am today and whose influence I’ve always consciously acknowledged. Hermann Hesse, Virginia Woolf, the beatniks, just to name a few. And after reading them I couldn’t ignore the little quite voice inside of me saying ”You are not what you are told you are”. But who am I then?
I’ve been trying to figure that out my whole life and in the meanwhile I’ve let go of many things I maybe shouldn’t or even mustn’t – at least, I was told so often enough. I was actually taken for a complete jerk in my stubbornness or sometimes looked at a bit funny by those less opinionated, although I was never truly a rebel and never did anything I’d consider radical. Am I really a jerk, though?
I admit I might cling to the truth of Franzen’s quote a bit too strongly.
Being overly dependent on my own freedom and stubbornly determined to pursue it, I wasn’t afraid to just fuck up a few things, because I sincerely didn’t believe they mattered. Not to me anyway and I didn’t ponder on what personally mattered to other people, since my own life didn’t affect them as it did me. (I’ve always been aware, though, even before studying J.S. Mill during my political philosophy class in the first year at the university, that my own freedom ends at the limits of someone else’s.)
So, I decided to study something that was pretty unemployable even before the crisis, although I could go anywhere and study whatever I wanted with my grades – and guess what: I did and at that moment I didn’t care where that would take me. Then, after the first completed level, I decided to stop studying philosophy, because I lost the passion and the curiosity for it by attending the classes instead of actually reading it. Yet, for the same reason I couldn’t force myself to switch courses and study something else, still saying to myself I shouldn’t let my supposed ”potential” determine me. (Look at me being all confident about my abilities.) At the same time, I had trouble doing anything else which could help me get a job if there was no other sufficient reason for it. I feel money alone is no good of a motivation unless you desperately need it.
I’m not going to elaborate all my steps here, but I have to highlight another one. I rarely really invested in a majority of my relationships whatever the nature of them, because I felt most of them didn’t deserve my time and didn’t see a reason to force them. (I’m one of those people who mostly read instead of party and feel quite awesome about it.) It was like I was constantly making selections among my acquaintances and only devoted energy to a few. Sometimes, at the risk of losing good ones, too, because my introvert nature likes to exaggerate people’s pressure. You can be quite sure of course marriage and kids weren’t really my thing.
All the while, I was feeling pretty well about everything, feeling I’m on a right track and all…
However, what I’m asking now is: Did I screw up my life trying to be free and — well be myself, for whatever that means?
Didn’t I act like a spoiled smartass and waste my chances of getting a decent job, a few formal titles and a good pay, a healthy long-term relationship and a regular group of friends I can go on a great concert with (because, really, how pathetic, I always go alone)?
Maybe. I can’t deny the possibility.
However, what I know is: I actually became who I am in the process. I didn’t know what that meant and, truth be told, still don’t precisely, but I started acting like I do. I challenged myself over and over again, escaping the win or lose perspective in everything I did, because it was building me either way. I actually took responsibility for my own life when I threw some of those chances away. My actions weren’t limited by my fears and doubts anymore. Not that I don’t have them – I do every single minute of my day, but their existence doesn’t necessarily imply their control over every step that I take. And I finally started to take care of myself, independent economically and otherwise, and truly appreciate the precious lessons, people and moments of life.
Another thing: taking a step back from the society, makes you see the wrong paths it is taking. You see that just because something is impenetrably declared as a universal truth (or custom), it doesn’t mean it is. There is another quote, so painfully truthful:
It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. – Jiddu Krishnamurti
Seeing the symptoms is easier from a distance and most importantly, seeing the chance to be healthier as well.
In short, I actually believe I did fuck up my life, maybe because I simply had to. I believe I will never get a decent regular job, have a PhD or a few millions, and I will maybe never start a normal family. — I’m still not sure I desire to. Not because I’m a lazy hedonistic ass, but because I can’t simply embrace the structure of some vague life forced upon me as my own and rather take my own decisions, accepting their consequences, painful or not.
And guess what – I got good family relations, lots of knowledge and wisdom from everywhere, a motivation to live and activate myself towards my dreams, a few of the best friends I could ever imagine and even a relationship so hard to picture just a couple of years ago, corresponding with something in me, as unhealthy as it seems to people around me …
I’m not saying screwing up your life is a good thing, I am saying, however, that for me breaking those walls, risking it was the only possible way to go. Maybe trying out is the one choice we’ve got.