Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life on my own terms: It's only happened now, because I'm ready at last.

Those of us who are old enough to remember Vietnam (the war, not the country), can recall the plethora of bumper stickers: "America: Love It or Leave It," or its irreverent counterpoint, "America: Fix It or F*** It," "Freedom is Not Free," etc., etc. And with each skirmish in which our nation has become involved, this theme has been echoed.

Security, national or personal, is an instinctive human quest. Freedom is actually the antithesis of security. It involves the sacrifice of those mindsets that make security compelling, but also dangerously limiting.

I've been reading articles about a not-insignificant number of people who are boldly stepping out into their own business and professional ventures right now, despite the collective hand-wringing over the economy. These folks--many baby-boomers like me--are making the conscious choice to "do their own thing." This catch-phrase of my generation has taken on new meaning for us. Instead of simply dancing in the park with "flowers in our hair," we are "leaving home" from the corporate world, which shielded us with steady (?) paychecks and "benefits," but also exacted heavy prices of work loads, treacherous office politics, freeway commutes, and encroachments into our personal time. We intrepid entrepenurial souls are "rebelling" from "the establishment" to grow up and dictate our own lives. No small feat.

Recently, I began wearing a pendant that shows a compass-face on one side, and an saying by Thoreau on the other. It reads: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." On my desk right now, I also see a paperweight a friend gave me. The saying on it says, "May you live every day of your life -- Jonathan Swift." These were real flesh-and-blood human beings, living before the luxuries of 401-k's and group managed health care plans. And yet they managed to carve out a philosophy and life plan that meant something once: independence that cost dearly, but fed their souls and freedom.

Harking back to the '60's bumper stickers, freedom on any level costs, often painfully. I recently left a four-day-a-week hospital position that included a check and some health benefits, but was, frankly, pulling my soul out of me. And now, I couldn't be happier.

I'm now budgeting time and money down to the minute and penny, but at least it's my time and my resources. Beholden to no one, I'm now capable of succeeding as I wasn't before . Unfettered, I can only see potential for my future. One slim little book I re-read recently has inspiration in its title alone, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, by Doris Lessing.

As we approach the Independence Day holiday, maybe all of us--baby-boomers included--can reflect on where in our lives we are still "stuck," and make a realistic escape plan.
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