Freedom is an interesting concept. It can mean different things to different people.
Yesterday, I acquired freedom, of a sort: I quit a job that had been making me deeply unhappy for a few months now, to the point it was impacting on my health. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly; it has repercussions – not least that we can ill afford to lose my monthly wages, so things are going to be a little tight for a while. I’ll be exchanging the stress of work for the stress of job-hunting; of trying to make my artwork pay, of juggling the budget to make it go that little bit further.
But I’ll take all that happily over a job where I was utterly miserable – where I would be on the verge of a panic attack just thinking about going in to work the night before, actually dreading it. Where “my job” consisted of a random bunch of left-over jobs that no-one else had gotten round to doing but no-one seemed particularly bothered or keen on having them done, and once they were done then I couldn’t justify to myself why I was still employed there, let alone explain to my boss just exactly what I was employed to do. My job had no clear job description; it was very nebulous. It had evolved into a sort of “PA to the IT team who did a bit of systems administration too” without any clearly-defined duties – which meant a lot of unpleasant tasks ended up devolving to me because “Arkady could take care of that”. Unfortunately there were a lot of things Arkady couldn’t take care of, because Arkady didn’t have the skills. I am in the slightly odd position of understanding a great deal about computer systems administration without ever having learned the hands-on part of actually doing it. They needed a sysadmin really, and got someone who would be a reasonably good one – with about a year’s training. I’d probably make a pretty good IT manager, but that wasn’t a role they were likely to let me step into. I was expected to find a different place for myself in the IT team without anyone saying what they expected it to be.
That kind of job might represent a form of freedom to someone else; a blank slate job they could make and define themselves. Ironically, what some might view as freedom, with no defined boundaries, was – to me – a form of slavery; a slave to stress and uncertainty. One man’s meat is another man’s poison – that saying certainly held true for me. I feel free when I know where the boundaries are and what is expected of me. When I know what my goals are, I am free to devote my energy to giving my fullest, fulfilling my goals creatively, instead of all my energy going to trying to make sense out of random emptiness.
I now have a form of freedom that perhaps many people would envy – a chance to find something I really love that would be suited to my wide range of somewhat eclectic skills and experience. I have time to paint, to play music and write. I can explore turning any of these into a living. Ironically, the thing that made the job so intolerable – a lack of boundaries – is now something I can finally embrace. The unnerving, nebulous void I wrestled with daily in my job is now transformed into a seemingly limitless vista where I can carve out my own future.
All fledgling birds must leave the nest sooner or later. They must take a leap of faith. They will either fly or fall. To quote a certain white-haired Witch of the Wilds in the game Dragon Age 2:
“We stand upon the precipice of change. The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss. Watch for that moment…and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap. It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly.“
I have leapt.