The Price of Freedom

Freedom.

We throw the word around a lot.

Kids want freedom from adult authority. Parents want their kids to enjoy freedom from peer pressure.

The LGBT community wants freedom from societal expectations of sexuality and gender norms. African Americans want freedom from racial profiling. Women want freedom from chauvinism and patriarchal social structures.

In the 1800s, hundreds of thousands of African slaves fought for freedom from plantation rule in the Americas. And in the 1900s, thousands of Jews wasted away in internment camps, hoping for freedom from the Nazi.

We all want freedom.
But what is it really?
And if you knew exactly what it was, what price would you put on it?

The Millennial Definition of Freedom

These days, our generation is mostly concerned with financial freedom. We spend years in school getting degrees for jobs that will give us a financially secure future; freeing us from the limitations of poverty. And then we spend the vast majority of our lives enslaved to these jobs to prolong this false sense of freedom.

I’m not advising anyone to quit their jobs. Someone has to work. We can’t all be entrepreneurs, trust fund kids, sugar babies, and hippies. We need full time doctors, nurses, garbage collectors, and lawyers, too.

But sometimes people allow themselves to do little more than eat, sleep, work and repeat. That’s not living. That’s not freedom. That’s making it through the day.

That’s surviving.
Our species evolved past that a long time ago.

Slaving Away for Corporate

When I was a fellow cog in the wheel, working at a Third World BP outsourcing post for a Fortune 500 company, I still made time to LIVE and to enjoy the alleged freedoms my job had purchased.

Weekends were for road trips, snorkeling, trying new foods, going to the gym, running, volunteering, writing – doing anything and everything that I was passionate about, outside of work.

I clocked out at 4PM on the dot every day to go home and live what little life was left to live in the day. My supervisor hated it, but I got my work done, met every deadline on time and often ahead of others, used less overtime to do the same amount of work as everyone else, and then went home to do better and more important things.

My director made the unfortunate comment one day that I must be “unmotivated”, because I didn’t do as much overtime as everyone else. For her, being a good worker was sitting at your desk clocking hours at roughly $5 per hour ($3.25 after taxes), even when you had finished your work, finished your regular hours and had nothing else to do.

To me, that was slavery and when I quit my job, I told them so.

My exact words to the HR manager were, “With all due respect, working here has been like working on a plantation with central air conditioning.”

Ironically enough, she smiled and told me I was not the first person to tell her that. But how many of them actually did something about it? Leaving to be “enslaved” somewhere else is just exchanging one master for another.

Childhood Freedom

But when I think back to true freedom, it wasn’t weekend road trips sponsored by my job that made me feel the most free. It was childhood freedom, when our needs were greater but our wants were less.

I remember when my greatest desire when I walked into a store was a colouring book and a pack of crayons, or a book to scribble in; not a new phone or a laptop.

Decluttering

In early 2015, I started to spend a lot of time thinking back to those days, and I started to think of how much ownership the things I owned had on me.

In January and February, I started to throw things out to declutter my apartment. Every weekend, I made a point of parting with things – old appliances, old devices, clothes… all out. By June 29 2015, I was able to fit every material thing of value to me into three suitcases and a laptop bag.

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I felt weightless!

That was freedom. And when I left those suitcases with one friend, and lived out of a knapsack at another; and then went on the road for a week with just a carry-on – that was freedom for me, too.

A New Hobby

And since it felt so bloody good as a child, I also went back to colouring…

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Octopus

Freedom is not Free

Maybe one day, I’ll go back to being a cog in the wheel at some other company, and maybe I won’t. The unbearable fact that most of us don’t like to admit to ourselves (and which others use as an excuse), is that freedom is not free.

And even when we give up our homes and our things, savings don’t last forever, and freelancing and entrepreneurship doesn’t always pay the bills. Maybe I’ll figure it out and find a way to prolong what was originally supposed to be a 6 month adventure, and maybe I won’t.

But until then… here I am. I’m where I want to be. Are you?

If you don’t like the answer to that question, then fix it! – even if it’s only a temporary moment of blissful freedom!

Originally published in August 2015 on Alexis Chateau.

66 Comments Add yours

  1. rubiescorner says:

    I love this picture.

    1. Thank you!

  2. mimispassion says:

    Wow your colorings are beautiful.

    1. Thank you! I’ve slacked off on colouring, but I’m getting back into it.

      1. mimispassion says:

        Owwww they sure are great👍👍✌

  3. Well put. As a “solopreneur” just celebrating 5 years away from office drudgery and politics, I get a cold sweat even thinking about having to return – quite a motivator to be smart with money and get more clients!! For me it all came at the right time and I knew I couldn’t be as successful as I am if I’d have left the corporate world earlier, because all of my experiences have given me the expertise and street cred that my clients appreciate. Fortunately there are so many ways to, as I put it, piece together a career, at least here on the West Coast, and more employers are open to contract and consulting work because hey, they don’t have to pay your employment taxes or provide benefits. But I know many to whom the self-employed life is terrifying to them as they need that feeling of security (even though no job is truly ‘secure’). My husband is that way, and just moving around within his current company was a big adventure in change management for him, as he was in his prior job for 16 years, but he’s grown because of it and his eyes have opened, which has been cool to watch. He’s become more outspoken and less ‘obedient’, if that’s the right word for it, which is pretty rad for a man about to turn 49 🙂

    Yeah when managers say they’ve heard that negative feedback before it’s kind of interesting and sad at the same time, because it’s clear they’re either apathetic or feel out of control themselves from making it better.

    BTW your coloring ROCKS! I was just having a conversation with my husband about all the adult coloring books out there that for me are just too hard hahaha. The one I have is an Elle Magazine one which is about one step beyond the grade school level coloring books – right up my alley!!

    And, a beautifully written post, as always. Have you seen Origins Magazine? Check it out online if not, you might dig the articles in there…

    1. I haven’t seen the Origin Magazine, but I’ll check it out.

      I love how you said he was getting less obedient. That’s one thing I was forever in trouble for at work: insubordination. I didn’t always jump and bark when told, especially when management wanted to throw me under the bus as a scapegoat for their own corporate screwups.

      I didn’t know you were self-employed as well. What field do you work in? Writing? I think I may have to get a part time job soon with renovations for the house around the corner, but that’s definitely for the short term.

      1. Haha same here, I was always described difficult, or my personal favorite, disruptive, which is used as a compliment when talking about men shaking things up in companies.

        I work in recruiting and career coaching and actually wrote it bit of a blog about it today 🙂 ( by the way I’ve asked a couple of people and they look at my blood on their mobile says well and haven’t had any problem leaving comments… what happens when you try to leave one on mine as you said you were having a problem with it…?)

      2. That’s strange. I think it’s because I followed a link and the Mobile App treats those funny. It doesn’t just open it in chrome. Also mobile wordpress via browser is different from mobile wordpress via app. Not sure which one they used.

        I don’t think I’m cut out for corporate life but I guess I’ll see where life takes me. Maybe I’ll find something that complements the rest of my life and philosophies.

  4. Amen and I love your artwork. Thanks for this post!! (And for the follow). Love it. 💜

    1. Thanks Laura! Glad this post resonated with you! I’m glad you liked my colouring as well.

  5. Another great post! I’ve just started learning that I only hurt myself and my life if I work more than I should or am paid for. I’m trying to get out of work when it’s time. Because if I stay, I always find something to do.
    And also… I think that chasing freedom (like happiness) is the opposite of the goal. You become not free and not happy. We should accept life and do our best, following our hearts.

    1. Thanks Kristina. This is one of my older posts. Just thought I’d reblog it to my new audience.

      Yes, it’s easy to work too much, and to forget to invest in other important areas of our lives. Working hard is important, but it can’t always be to forward someone else’s company and dream.

  6. There is so much truth in this post! I used to work construction. I would get paid $15hr and usually work 12 hours a day for 4-5 days a week initially, until we hit shutdowns and that was every single day. I didn’t like it. My immediate boss was a complete asshole. I was making more money than I’ve made in my life, at an age where most of my friends from high school would be lucky to dream of getting such.

    It wasn’t worth it though. To me time is far more valuable than money. Money is an unfortunate necessity but time is something you can’t put a price on. So I left that job, and after a long struggle through many years I found something I’m completely happy with. It is only part time, but it pays my bills, allows me to support my family, and most of all, allows me to have the time to spend with my family and the time to truly live life!

    I can write (A HUGE THING FOR ME…Obviously) and I have time to do other things as well, like read all the wonderful blogs I keep discovering here on WordPress, and still fit in the time to game, watch movies, and read comic books.

    I quite love it. I suppose I’m just trying to say, you are absolutely right! True freedom is something everyone should strive for. If you are making tons of money, great, but if you don’t have time to live and experience life, or you are simply miserable, then find something else you love, strive and go for your passions!

    Quite the inspiring post and thanks for sharing. I thought I would share a little of my experience as well.

    Cheers! ^_^

    1. Thanks for sharing that! I wish I could say I had a similar experience, but as you saw, that job paid nothing worth having.

      I suppose that only made me value my time more. I certainly wasn’t going to give it up to a corporation for $3.25 per hour. That was a crazy expectation on their part.

      Time is extremely valuable to me. I enjoy the flexibility too and being able to schedule things at a moment’s hint.

  7. Freedom does come with a price that some of us are not willing to pay. We all want it, but some of us will never have it. People get stuck on material things and are not willing to sacrifice them in order to live and be free. Some people allow fear to keep them from living and pursuing their dreams.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks Wanda. Yes, it’s unfortunate that material objects keep people so wound up. My next post will be about what I learned after taking the minimalist route.

  8. Eugenia says:

    Well written post with a clear message and beautiful artwork.

    1. Thank you, Eugenia!

      1. Eugenia says:

        😉

  9. No prob. Thanks for dropping by mine as well!

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