What does freedom mean to you?
This question was posed by Adam Baker of Man-v-Debt to the audience at TEDx Asheville 2011. It’s really a great question and something important for me – for all of us – to get clarity around while crafting lives we love living.
I’ve been pondering it for a couple of years now and my answer has pretty consistently been this:
Freedom to me is having the ability to live, work and play where I want and when I want.
I want to be able to travel somewhere for a week or a month, live in a place for 3 months or 3 years, go where the festivals and conferences and epic events are happening, move somewhere warm in cold seasons and somewhere cool in hot ones, and sometimes even plant myself at “home” until I feel ready to move again. To say it another way, I want to be location independent and completely in charge of my own schedule.
And I want to do all this while earning a reasonably steady and solid income that supports my lifestyle. The income part is something I expect to flux up and down over time – my number now may not always be my number. The schedule flexibility I don’t think will change. It’s been my #1 desire for many years now. And so far, an unmet desire. Why?
My definition of Freedom is fabulous and true for me. But there’s quite a bit going on under the hood.
Achieving the Freedom I desire means having:
- Freedom from financial worries, which means not feeling stressed out about spending $20, $50 even $500 to do something impromptu. That requirement may change but for now that means my income needs to be at a certain level.
- Freedom from debt, which reduces my ability to flux my income should that become a priority. I tend to give mortgages a pass since I really, really, really want a cute house but there are compelling arguments to be made for being mortgage-free ($) and even house-free (energy).
- Freedom to move about the country (apologies to Southwest Airlines). This means having time and money (sense a theme?). It also helps to have a sense of adventure, a strong network and a passion for putting together fun trips.
- Freedom to move about the world – same as the above plus a passport and freedom from a criminal record (not really kidding)
- Freedom from stuff, at least too much stuff. Storing it, hauling it, cleaning it and dealing with it all distract from the moving about part, right? Stuff requires money and time to maintain. Less stuff = more freedom.
- Freedom from my cubicle. No more 8-5, M-F, can’t-get-off-to-go-meet-someone-at-3pm-without-asking bullsh*t. Nuff said.
- Freedom from my “career”, at least from the traditional sense of the word. I’m not sure about the boundaries on this one and it’s been a sticking point. I’m not a career ladder climber but I do have a professional identity I’m apparently attached to. I have always gotten a job when I wanted one and my experience is in a fairly in-demand field (IT). However I worry about said skills getting stale.
- Freedom from the perception that security is possible. Many a thought leader and blogger have posted on this. I’ve been laid off and you probably have been too. We no longer have security in a j-o-b. Our retirement accounts won’t necessarily provide it nor can our Countries. Remaining nimble, passionate and healthy is the new 401K.
- Freedom from caring what others think of my life, including loved ones who care about me very much but may not really “get” me. This is a big, triggery one for a lot of us. I’ve pretty much trained my family to trust that I’ll take care of myself but I know they will freak out when I leave my job.
Yep, I said it … when I leave my job. I am ready ready ready to leave my j-o-b in cubicle nation. I’ve appreciated it but it’s time to move on. It _is_ happening, friends. Not tomorrow and not next week. Maybe not even next month. But it’s imminent. I can taste the Freedom. Things are in motion. And it feels good. Really good.
So today, I’m declaring my independence from my job – along with all the baggage that comes with it – and embracing the Freedom I know I deserve!
Woohoo, hell yeah and somebody bring me a beer!
What does freedom look like to you?
psst … none of this requires Freedom from fear. I’ve been told over and over to get used to fear and uncertainty as a companion, to just stick ’em in the passenger seat and get on with the ride. It’s great advice and something I am practicing.
Update: shortly after posting this (on the way to find that beer, actually) I decided that I would be best served by putting a timeframe around the act of quitting. So I will inform my boss of my intentions before the month of August is over.