Freedom is a word that drives almost everything I do. When I graduated from BGSU in 2009 and began the search for a teaching job, I don't think I had a very good handle on just how important this concept was to me. Teaching is an incredibly difficult profession that I respect to an almost reverant degree -- but it certainly isn't marked by a high amount of freedom. I quickly realized this when I took a good look at my schedule and realized there was no physical way for me to go to the bathroom for about four hours during my teaching day. There just wasn't time for me to go between classes due to the unhappy circumstances of classroom location and absurdly short passing time between bells.
For me, freedom is waking up every morning and getting to work on something that is mine. Not necessarily all day and it doesn't mean never doing anything for anyone else, but working on something borne of my own creativity and devotion. That led to the creation of this website and the growth of my business. It led me to graduate school to study the scientific discipline that helps me better understand how to help people. It explains why I'm sitting in a coworking space in Prague as I write this, working in the midst of other people who by choice or by circumstance are working for themselves. It's why the top of my list of research ideas sits the equation, "meaningful work = meaningful life". We spend the vast majority of our lives working. I want to help people make sure they're getting the most out of that time.
Freedom can be scary and not everybody values it as highly as I do. I certainly respect those who value the security of a salaried job and regular paycheck. I'm just glad I figured out that wasn't for me before I had bought so completely into the system that says that's what you're supposed to do that I never could've fought my way out. I'm excited that by creating my own freedom I can help other people find their freedom. Whether that's starting a business of their own or carving out their own definiton of freedom while working for someone else. I'm not here to define freedom for anyone -- only to help people find it once they've defined it for themselves.
Freedom. It's not a matter of being able to work from anywhere or never doing anything for anybody else. It's not about sticking it to the man or raging against the machine. It's about knowing what I'm good at, what I like to do, and combining them in a way that helps people and allows me to earn a simple living. Sometimes freedom is not knowing what the hell I'm doing or how I'm going to make something work. It can be a cycle between great ideas and difficult/impossible execution that can seem like a perverse perpetual motion machine of frustration.
But I wouldn't trade it for anything. And you shouldn't trade your freedom, whatever it means to you, for anything either.
Happy Independence Day to all my fellow American readers. Regardless of your national origin, think a little bit about what freedom means to you today. Can you take a step in a direction that will make you more free? Can I help?