I watched my nephew graduate from high school last week and I cheered for all 189 students in his class as they celebrated this milestone in their lives. It reminded me of a post that I had written about becoming independent as we grow older and what independence has meant to me throughout my life. I wanted to share it again as we approach Independence Day here in the USA!
Reaching the State of Independence
When I started to contemplate a post about independence, I did what I always do. I googled it and landed on Wikipedia. There I found articles about algebraic independence, political independence, referendums on, wars of, but I found nothing about personal independence and what that might mean.
So I went to Dictionary.com and looked it up.
Freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.
That gets us closer to where I was going…
I used to think that independence meant making my own way in this world. So many milestones growing up lent themselves to my personal independence as I defined it at that time. Being allowed to come home after school without having to have someone watch us, getting my driver’s license, being allowed to stay out til midnight, getting a job.
When I graduated from high school and went to college, I was allowed to choose my own major, create my own schedule within the parameters assigned by the school. I was on my own when it came to skipping or attending class, doing assignments, studying. There was no one standing over me every night making sure my work was done.
When I got my degree and was out in the “real world” for the first time, I gained more independence when I got my first apartment, and learned how to manage my own budget. When I gained more responsibilities in my job and found that working independently while prioritizing my own work flow was so much more rewarding than being told what to do. With each promotion and job change, I gained more independence on the job, and greater financial independence.
When I got married, I learned about interdependence, which while slightly different from independence, still has some of the same qualities. My husband and I built a life where we were equals, yet independent. Our lives are woven together in every possible way and we support each other through every day living. But, we are still our own persons. We both enjoy different hobbies and activities, and we both have our own opinions and thoughts. Part of a successful marriage is learning to intermingle our individual selves and come out stronger for it. 🙂
I think as I have grown older, my idea of personal independence has evolved and become much more about the core me, instead of the exterior me that was allowed to do certain things. When we are teenagers and get that first taste of freedom and independence, we are still very much at the mercy of our parents’ rules and the school’s rules. We must toe the line or our independence is once again restricted.
As adults, we have to stick to certain parameters in our lives — the scope of our job and its responsibilities, the whims of our bosses, the laws of the local, state and federal government. But the independence that we seek becomes more intimate. We want to be our own person. We want to have our own dreams and goals. We want to be understood and accepted for ourselves. We don’t want to have to be like everyone else to fit in.
Many people I have known have also gained independence from the obstacles they met along their life path – debt, alcohol, drugs, people who were no good for them, physical limitations, their own mental demons. Once we get beyond that struggle for baseline independence, we allow ourselves to open up to the deeper independence that comes from knowing our true selves, and accepting them, and celebrating them.
That is true independence.