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I was thinking about freedom the other day. And about what the price of freedom really is.
Most of us think that we want to get rich, that we want to be millionaires and quit our jobs. But that’s not actually what we want.
We want freedom.
Money is irrelevant — it’s only the means to an end — to buy us freedom. But what does freedom really cost? And how much of it do we need? Are we willing to pay the price?
Whenever I write a list of core values I want to live by and define what’s most important in my life, freedom always comes up in the top five.
Okay, in the top three.
So it’s the single most important thing in my life. I want to be totally free!
At the age of three, I wanted to put my own clothes on, prepare my own food, carry my own stuff and brush my own teeth. I told my parents that I could do everything myself. Not exactly unusual for a three-year-old.
What may be slightly more uncommon though is that I am still there, forty years later. To me, freedom hasn’t just been about being able to move or travel or to have enough money to eat at nice restaurants, but also to know that I am completely independent, that I answer to no one and that I can change my mind about how I live from one day to another.
I live like that to a large extent, probably more than most people, but not at all as much as someone with freedom as their top priority should.
And here is why: I am not sure I am willing to pay the price.
After spending some time this past weekend with good friends of mine who have wonderful families and relationships, I realized that freedom comes with a very big price tag.
Dreaming about becoming a millionaire and all the things we would do if we had that kind of money is easy. And so is hiding behind that dream. It’s always safe to say that our wallets aren’t fat enough and therefore we are stuck here, slaving away in the office. We say we can’t have freedom because we not rich enough. But that’s not true.
Not having the funds may cause a delay and a bump in the road, but if all we really wanted was total freedom and we were willing to do whatever it took, we would get there sooner or later. We would find a way to earn that money, we would count down the days like an inmate waiting to get out of prison.
I’m smart enough, I am ambitious, I work hard, I have a good education and am stubborn to a fault, so why am I still working for someone else? Why do I still have that apartment I bought seven years ago? Why am I still trying to make relationships work where I am? Why have I not, after forty years, started a business and taken off into the sunset never to be seen again?
The truth is, I am not sure what to do with freedom. Others don’t have the same priorities. Others have commitments and relationships that matter more to them than sipping champagne on a terrace in Southern France for the rest of their lives. And I need the others. Who would I take with me on the journey to total freedom?
Not only that. With absolute freedom, there is nobody else to rely on. There is nobody to blame. There is nothing to care about. Suddenly, everything is up to me. I don’t need to please my boss, I don’t need to get along with my co-workers, I don’t have to compromise. The choices are all mine, but so is the responsibility. To take care of myself, to make the money, to fill the time, to build relationships, to find something meaningful, to learn and grow. To make a difference. It’s all on me.
That scares me, I can’t deny that. But I am also starting to wonder how much my freedom is worth. Maybe I have been ripped off by the idea of freedom and paid way too much for it already. Even if my bank account would somehow cope; with no relationship, family or even home town, I wonder sometimes if my hunt for freedom has come with a price too steep for my heart to handle.
Maybe living abroad for a year once every decade is enough to feel free? Maybe more vacation days and a side hustle or even a hobby would do the trick?
We don’t need millions in the bank to feel free. We need to get our priorities straight. Then we need to negotiate with freedom. How much is it worth? What are we willing to pay for it? And most importantly, what do we need it for and how do we want to live when we get it?
Personally, I think I am going to bump down freedom to number three on my list. Right after love and meaningful relationships.
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