The False Freedom of Feeling Unfettered

Recently, a close friend was sharing with me her low-grade mourning about missing that feeling of being, “fully myself, without all the caca.” As adults, we all know what she means by this because we’ve experienced it ourselves. Hearkening back to a time when we had no responsibilities and life promised to be our oyster—when all felt like silken gossamer—well, I can summon up an exact image in my mind, at college, when I felt precisely this way. What moment in time do you think about to evoke that feeling?

Except, as I’ve continued to ponder my friend’s wistful observation, as much as I relish that sense of freedom and future promise, I also know that who that unencumbered, young girl was, back in college, isn’t me—it wasn’t even fully her. And I say this because I know that freedom doesn’t translate into “feeling fully myself.” Not for me, and probably not for my friend, either.

The reason for this is that as Re-booters, we embrace the fact that our lives are filled with responsibility—responsibility to ourselves, to our family, to the world around us. Part of what made that girl back in college feel so thrilled about who she was and the things she’d accomplish was the anticipation of doing “real things” in the real world. At that point in her life, she wasn’t equipped to take on too much, but she thrilled at the potential for competence, for courage, and the confidence that only comes with experience. Look, none of us would even bother with re-booting if all we were interested in was living an unfettered life—we’d simply run away. Right?

The purpose of re-booting is to find a saner, more mature way to handle our responsibilities and to flourish—to be more fully ourselves in the context of our complex, adult lives. A very different premise than one seeking to be “free.” This applies as much to someone in their twenties as it does to someone in their eighties. The way I see it, re-booting is a process in which we recognize the lives we have created for ourselves and then try to improve upon how we manage them so that the undercurrents of fretting and unhappiness ebb away. The difference is this: you don’t avoid problems, you overcome them. This is much more than a syntactical difference. What this entails is a willingness to acknowledge and tackle the challenging issues so that they no longer become a problem for you. For instance, you don’t avoid your ex, you simply change how you think about and react to their nonsense so they no longer have the ability to upset you.

Another friend was bemoaning his decision to leave one job that he grew to dislike and returned to school for a different degree that has subsequently landed him in a job with less pay, less benefits, and doesn’t even require the degree he invested in. OK, well, yeah that sucks, but would he have been better off not trying to improve his work situation that he was growing to hate? Re-booters understand that each of these choices have consequences. Adults are aware of the balancing act and sacrifices that any important life decision involves. You don’t get everything you want. Nobody does. How you make such decisions and handle the inevitable consequences that accompany them and what it entails in terms of managing or up-ending your current situation is solely up to you—you’re free to do as you see fit—but these choices and decisions are as much a part of you as deciding where you live or whether you finally go after that long lost love or anywhere in between.

It’s tempting to get lost in the fantasy that freedom equals our ideal self when, in truth, we’ve been working all our lives towards this goal of having fulfilling, complicated relationships and responsibilities and challenges in our lives. But, the good news is that simultaneously, we have cultivated the tools to deal with them in a way that stays fully true to who we are. It’s only when we lose sight of our true self—in the midst of these complications, not because of them—that our sense of freedom slips away.

Don’t get me wrong. I struggle against the desire of unfettered freedom on a regular basis, but I remind myself it’s a fiction; I wouldn’t trade my flawed struggle for anything. Do I wish things were better for me? Yes, of course I do. Do I mourn for things in my life that failed to manifest? You bet. But, what comforts me throughout, is that I know I am making headway in terms of how I am learning to remain true to myself while cooperating with the world around me.

You can do this, too. A Re-booter knows these things.

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One Response to “The False Freedom of Feeling Unfettered”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    this is a fantastic entry! Thank you for this—so much food for thought, and so many great points. 🙂

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