Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
~Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee”
We all have our own personal idea of what constitutes “freedom.” For me, being free really is having “nothing left to lose.” Some people might find it fatalistic, but I don’t feel free being tied down. Tied down with debt, tied down to a place, tied down to a way of looking at the world, tied down to a way of being.
Having “nothing left to lose” means that I don’t have to worry. A bad storm springs up. Lights start going out. Rain all over the place. I’m at work and the windows in my apartment are wide fucking open. My coworker wonders why I’m unconcerned. “What’s the rain going to hurt? The futon? It’s just water.” If someone broke into my apartment there isn’t much I’d worry about them taking. I can replace most of it easily. Some things would be a pain. Some things I wouldn’t be able to replace. But what are you going to do? Why worry about what you can’t change? Float on.
I rent an apartment and work a minimum-wage job. If I get tired of this town, I’ll put in my two weeks notice and move somewhere else. I don’t require copious amounts of money to support myself. I gave up the gadgets and gizmos and nice cars and massive amounts of discretionary income in favor of flexibility and freedom.
On the other hand, I give up forty hours a month of my life so I can have a car. That was a decision I made stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m sticking with it, mostly due to my desire to travel and my nomadic nature. The freedom a car offers (at this point) equals the freedom it removes.
My cats restrict my freedom, as they require me to work more to support them and remove an amount of flexibility, but the companionship and pleasure I derive from sharing my life with them is worth it.
I work a second job. A huge obligation. I lose part of my life, and my ability to do what I want to do with a large chunk of my time. On the other hand, I don’t have to micro-manage the number of hours I work at my main job and I can pay off my bills faster. A trade-off. I’m willing to give up a little of my freedom now in exchange for coming that much closer to a greater freedom later.
My parents saddled themselves with debt. A big house, new cars, this and that and whatnot out the ass. Brand new things for my sister’s baby when used would have worked just fine. They’re trapped in a mortgage they can’t get out of, a house they can’t sell, car notes and credit card bills and a need for a great amount of discretionary income. My mother is pissed and stressed out because they can’t get out. Their freedom is gone. For what? A brand-new bedroom set for a baby that will grow out of it long before she’ll ever remember it. For a satellite dish they can veg out and waste time to. For a new car that eats just as much gas as the old one.
Before taking on anything, be it a living creature, a seemingly innocuous object, or an obligation, consider if this adds to your freedom or takes it away. Is it worth it? Is it worth the hours you have to work to pay for it? Is it worth the worry of it possibly getting stolen? Is it worth the storage and the cleaning? If it just disappeared, would you miss it?
Ultimately, you decide your own fate. Some people take the blank slate of life and draw a prison on it. They don’t call it a prison, and they dress it up so it doesn’t look like a prison. But then they cry as if someone has put a gun to their head and is forcing them to work sixty or eighty hours a week. As if someone has forcibly taken their time away from them. The only person responsible for the way you live your life is you. You can trap yourself in debt and while away your time with television, but don’t whine about it as if you don’t have a choice. You do. You always do.