Addicted to Freedom

This is the Freedom generation. This is the generation that keeps trading what it has for something better. Gone are the days of our parents who worked for 30 years in the same company. Gone are the days when job security meant something. Government jobs, at least in the upwardly mobile India, are looked down upon. Look around, how many of your friends have stayed in the same job for more than 5 years? Now start listing everything that is wrong with them. Now look at the friend who cant stay in the same job for more than a year, something is wrong with that friend too. He is addicted to freedom.

When I was in school, I always wondered how my dad woke up everyday, drove his 2 stroke Kinetic Honda to work, worked on Boeing 737 engine-airframe and was happy, actually proud of what he did for a living. My mother, too, super happy serving poor government employees, at a salary a month that she could earn in 3 days doing private practice. The only time I saw her annoyed with her job was when she was on emergency call, and the call would invariable come at 1 in the night. Together, my parents built a family, bought a house, paid for most of my expensive Business school education and were very happy with most things. I have never, I mean never, heard them talk about changing their job. At some point in their life, which I think was early 20s, they decided that they will retire in the company where they were first recruited.

I know too many people who are my age who havent changed a single job. And I could almost predict who would last in their jobs and who wouldnt! Most of these guys I have known since my engineering days. These guys were the most accepting of what came their way. While I was furious that after all my hard work, I had to travel 2 hours to God forsaken Andheri to my engg college, these guys were actually thankful that they got a govt college and had to pay half the fees you paid in a private engg college. They are the in-liners. Their aspirations, their dreams, their understanding of the world, is in-line with that of the society they live in. They dont yearn for freedom. And even if they do, that yearning is clouded by the need to be in-line.

I also know a few people who are too unstable, too crazy, too addicted to their idea of utopia, that they don't last in a certain job for too long. Note that I said, job, and not company, for these guys need a change of job, not necessarily the setting. These are the guys who see pictures of the Google headquarters and dream about working there, not because it pays well, but because, well, they have a friggin slide instead of a staircase. It triggers that part of their brain which wants to be free.

80s was the best time to be born in India. Our teachers, the people who shaped our imagination were from the socialist 60s, but as the internet came into our lives, we learnt things from other teachers, who might have been from a different age, a different country. The need for freedom is ingrained in us. I dont know of any country, no matter how wretched, who after freedom, wants to be enslaved again.

Think about a day - You wake up in the morning, it is nice and sunny outside, you feel like going to the garden, to take a walk, or play catch with your dog, if you are a dog person, or talk to someone on the street, if you are a people person. You dont want to sit in front of a computer screen. But then you wear your suit, get in your car and drive to work, because you have a report due, or a client meeting, or want to earn that day's salary.

In MDI, I joined this group that met Entrepreneurs, architects, ad film makers, Garment exporters every week. We invited them to dinner and shared ideas - I remember talking to the ad film maker, whose name I now forget, the conversation steered towards philosophy and life and he put it beautifully - Life is balance - he said.

So, ultimate freedom is not going to happen, rather should not happen. But yes, I dream of the day when people would have balanced freedom. What is balanced freedom? Take for example, freedom of speech. Balanced freedom here would mean that people can say whatever they want within a group, say, use expletives, write it somewhere in a book, and it should be available to people who are willing to open the book and see it. But at the same time, you cant stand on the street, or enter a bus and yell expletives, for they didnt choose to hear it, unlike the book buyers.

People who are addicted to freedom, I have seen, are also addicted to creating something. They might not be good at anything, but they want to make something, if not something new, improve something existing. And yes, earn freedom out of it. I think if people realise that freedom can be earned, everybody would start working for it. Some say money brings you freedom, but making money takes away all the freedom.It is a cycle you dont want to get caught in.

If you are addicted to freedom, like I am, know that like every addiction, it can only be cured with small doses of freedom. And every dose will have to be earned.

Imagine the life you may have - The life of doing whatever you want, whenever you want it. Imagine waking up in a small shack on a beach. It is 9.30 in the morning. The warm breeze blows from the sea, tastes of salt. You walk up on the sand beach, barefoot. The sand is warm. You are thinking about the last night, the music, the conversation, the friendships. You have breakfast/brunch, depending on what you want to call it, on a shack on the beach. Then go for a swim in the ocean. Maybe then you go teach someone something, algebra, if you are good at it, or brand management, if you like, all those degrees have to count for something. Then maybe you write something, or learn to play an instrument, or learn a new sport. Tennis sounds good. Meet up friends in the evening. Find love, or make love, if you have already found it. Eat. Live. Dance (occasionally). Create. Sleep. Be free.

But whatever you do, be addicted to freedom.

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4 letters to the editor:

    Captain jack sparrow said in - the pirates of the caribbean the curse of the black pearl- The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do....i find this true....
    Freedom is very very good. If you can manage to have it, then have it. Some cant or dont try for freedom because the attempts to that may create imbalance in the delicately balanced life. Some people dont have the option of freedom.

    Just imagine. What if your family could not support you in your early days for whatever reasons. Chances are that you might have had a different thought process today.

    I am just putting a point of view. No offence intended.

    I know what you are talking of. I know which side of the line I fall on - and it is the opposite side of the in-liners. I love the pursuit of being free, though for now I am interspersing periods of freedom with periods that lack it to balance the need for meaning and happiness (incl money!).

    You are right. But I think, we are what we are because of our nature - so if freedom is deeply ingrained in us because for the way we are, then no amount of environmental change is going to curb it. No?

    I am doing the exact same thing man!

    On March 14, 2013 at 10:27 AM     
    Sculptor said...

    Found your example of freedom of speech great, choice is the differentiating factor. Reminded me of an old Will Smith song - Sure you can do it, but did you really need to say it? Did you think about all the seeds your ruined?

    That being said, there's a very serious lack of belonging we all face. Loyalty is hard to come by. And I often hear friends who are doing great at their jobs say they're doing well not because, but in spite of their job. There's always this undertone of thanklessness, for their college, place of work or wherever they may be.

    That being said, as the years have gone by, our time & monetary investments in education have risen without an accompanying increase in retirement ages. We have only so much time in the sun, & in a dog eats dog world, can you blame someone for wanting better?