The Price of Freedom

woman jumping happily in the air

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.

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66 thoughts on “The Price of Freedom

  1. Freedom is a very intriguing concept.
    Every now and then I realize how much it means to me yet at the same time I am also reminded that it has a price.
    When a friend was talking about how much she loves freedom I said: but you know, freedom has a price. Mark her words: “cage has a price too and I rather pay the price of freedom than the price of a cage”.

    1. Your friend is a smart woman. Freedom is not free, but it is worth almost any price.

      Only almost – as Haiti learned. They were the first Caribbean country to gain freedom and abolish slavery, and the only thing they’ve had to show for it since was debt, poverty, and an unstable government. Sometimes true freedom is not just about the price, but also how we pay it and who we pay it to.

  2. Thank-you Alexis for this great post !
    I agree that many people would enjoy more freedom following their own passion and interests. It is worth noting that many people are influenced by friends and family members.

    I like your colouring in by the way ! 🙂

    1. Thank you Dave! I’m glad these words inspired you in some way. People are indeed influenced by family and friends, but it’s also important to note we choose the friends around us who inevitably influence who we are and who we become.

      1. That is very true Alexis! There is always the freedom in life to change our friends or to change our job/career.
        I enjoyed your post and the message behind it 🙂

  3. The price of freedom is generally security. More security = less freedom and vise versa. I’m happy to say most of my life has been pretty free, but like you said there is a price (though I did manage to reach 64 in one piece lol). I think it’s worth paying. Life can be an adventure.

  4. We’re meant for more than 9 to 5’s. That doesn’t men that we can’t or shouldn’t have them, it just means that we need to freedom to find fulfillment. Some people can do that at their jobs, others can’t. I guess it probably depends on the person and the job.

    1. It certainly depends on the person. As I said in the post, someone has to do them. We can’t all go rogue. But there’s certainly more to our fulfilment as adults than just working a 9 to 5 shift.

      By the way, did you turn comments off on your blog? I can’t comment though the WordPress app. The option is no longer there.

      1. Well said! I think it’s important for us all to find more to our lives than our jobs, even if we love our work!

        I’ve been having some technical difficulties here lately, apparently. I’m no longer showing up on a lot of people’s reader feeds and some people are having trouble commenting. I’m not sure what the problem is, but we’re working to resolve it!

      2. Hmm, maybe you should check your settings? Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve seen you in my feed. I usually have to seek you out myself. I wonder what’s going on.

      3. Yeah, it’s an issue I’ve been having over the last few weeks, I think. I’m hoping that I have it resolved now, but I’ll have to wait and see! Fingers crossed!

  5. Ms Alexis, I must say you have done it again. I really admire your train of thought. I must admit I have been on jobs that made little, as well as a career that catapulted me to a place that I can only say I am blessed to have been. Yet a very important and intriguing point that was made is simply the fact that you have to take control of your life, it reminds me of a popular cliche I hear often: you work to live not live to work. Now saying that I will say can be double sided because some people just possess that work ethic, I personally struggled with it within the corporate world for the simple reason that, instead of it being considered a strength it was treated as a liability. Therefore I quit being that I prefer to control my landscape, I mean maybe I have control issues, or maybe i just like to control my issues, yet that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is finding that peace of mind, that ultimate confidence in yourself that no matter what role whether it be corporate or entrepreneurship, that you feel fulfilled, and balanced.

    1. Thank you Jessie! Flattered that you enjoyed this article as well.

      I do believe it all boils down to taking control of your own life, like you said.

      The work ethic though doesn’t really mean people will work too much at work. I, for instance, am a workaholic and what some teasingly call an overachiever. I mean the top of a college class kind with first class honours.

      I’ve put in as much as 80 hours in a week when it comes to my PR and writing work. But I choose to do that. I can also choose to do nothing at all, which I sometimes do for days at a time. That’s the beauty of working for myself.

      Working hard doesn’t always mean forwarding someone else’s dream at their company. Even in corporate, I went home and spent the rest of that energy writing my novel, training my pets, snorkeling, traveling, reading books, or getting a certification to tack three letters onto my name as a fancy title lol.

      Working hard does not hinder anyone’s freedom. It just depends on who and what you’re working hard for! So keep working hard Jessie. Just be mindful of where that energy goes!

      1. I totally agree, and to put it in context for i feel we are sharing the same thought. I feel it really comes down to taking personal inventory to ensure that balance, for what’s the purpose of being a corporate success and yet feeling like a personal failure or vice versa. Like you said it’s not really the hours but the fulfillment that those hours bring to the individuals that matters.

  6. It’s odd. One would think it a good thing that you don’t need more overtime to get your work done as overtime is just an extra expense for them.

    1. Haha. The manager who passed on the remark to me said the same thing, but I suppose it’s more about the thrill of forcing people to give up their lives to slave away for $4, more so than whether or not they were productive. People used to clock in for 2 hours, gossip, go home, and get paid. I kid you not.

  7. I really like this post, right now I have the opportunity to experience freedom and I should take it. Currently, I don’t feel free but I know things that I can do to feel this way. I love volunteering, writing.coloring (so glad they have adult coloring books) and trying new places too. I’ve decided to make a list of all the places I want to see and do in my hometown, while I’m here for a season.Stay Blessed <3

    1. Thank you! I’m glad the post has inspired you to chase freedom along your journey to success. It really pays off in my opinion, as long as the bills are paid. Debts hinder freedom too!

      All the best with your journey. Can’t wait to see your posts in my feed. 🙂

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