Baby, I’m free

I had a revelation last week: I can do whatever I want (aside from going to work, of course, and doing my job).

Now, put that way, that’s kind of a “duh” statement, so let me explain.

I had realized that I had gotten myself involved in something I thought I would like and wanted to like but just … didn’t. In talking to my mom and best friend about how un-thrilled with it I was, how I felt like I had to force myself to go, how I wanted to do other things, etc., it hit me — I don’t like this. To which they both, more or less, probed: Then why are you doing it?

And the answer is … there is no good answer. Because, for perhaps the first and only time in my life, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. I’m not building a resume (well, I am, but my job is taking care of that). I don’t have a schedule that’s full virtually 24-7. I don’t have an RA or landlord monitoring my activities and noise level. I don’t have parents keeping tabs on what I do and where I go and when I go to bed.

Which led to the greater revelation: I am at a unique phase of my life in that, essentially, I am accountable to no one.

This might seem obvious because (duh) I’m not married and don’t have kids. I see the people I work with who do have those things, and there’s never any question of what they’re doing when they leave work. Me, I get to decide that every day.

But the less obvious part of this lack of accountability comes in the fact that I also don’t have a roommate or a boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong; both of those are wonderful things I would probably be happy to have right now, but the fact of the matter is, I don’t. And as such, I don’t have to consider anyone else’s plans or culinary preferences or sleep schedule or TV shows or anything.

Sometimes, not having a roommate or boyfriend leads to excessive aloneness. As in, if I don’t make plans, I go home and spend my evenings by myself (not that that’s truly a bad thing … not going to lie, it’s growing on me). If there’s something I want to do but not alone, I don’t have a go-to person to persuade to come with me. It can also be a little scary. As in, no one’s going to know if I don’t make it home safely or if I die in my sleep. Plus, sometimes all the independence is exhausting.

Most of the time, I feel like that’s a bad thing. But there’s a flipside: Not having anyone influencing my life on a daily basis affords me a degree of freedom that, I imagine, few people can claim to have. It’s also a degree of freedom that is unlikely to last an extended period of time because, one would hope, at some point I will have a boyfriend and/or roommate, and eventually I do want to have the husband and kids to really tie me down.

And here’s part three, the part the really got me thinking: This phase of my life is also kind of a new thing. You don’t have to look back too many generations to find a time when people didn’t graduate from college, move far from home for a job and live on their own. You really don’t have to look back far to find a time when women didn’t do that.

Which I think is pretty cool. Along with many of my friends from college and many of the friends I’ve made here, I’m doing something that not many generations of women before me have done: working full-time and supporting myself, living on my own and taking care of myself. But, more importantly, I’m figuring myself out — my tastes, my interests, my lifestyle, my joys — long before I’m attaching myself to the larger institutions of life (i.e. marriage and family).

That period of independence is something I always said I wanted. I thought it’d be good and smart to establish my career and live on my own before getting married (however, I didn’t want to, or think I ever would, live alone). I also find it hard to imagine that anyone would’ve turned down this job because it meant moving to a state far away where they knew no one (though I’ll admit that was scary). I certainly wasn’t going to.

But still. I don’t often appreciate just what this takes. It wasn’t until I discussed this with a few girlfriends, one who is about to do the same thing I have and one who likely will in the future, that I felt a small sense of awe at the adventure I undertook. Because neither of them have made the step yet, and they’re both pretty nervous about it, they made me realize how much strength and courage is required to be this free.

My friends told me they were proud of me. That they were amazed at how well I’ve done, how I’ve met people and found things to do and made myself happy.

Which, to me, was amazing. Of course, it means a lot when my parents say they’re proud of me, but they’ve been proud since I learned to sit up. To have my friends — people I consider peers and respect and love and talk to about anything and everything — say they admire me and are proud of me is a whole other feeling entirely.

It makes me appreciate myself and what I’m doing with brand-new perspective. It makes me take a step back and take a moment to be proud of myself.

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