Freedom of Choice

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I’m always shocked by how much freedom I have in my life. I can eat whatever I desire, whenever I choose to, such as breakfast food for dinner. Pasture-raised eggs, organic spinach, aged cheddar from Ireland, and Texan salsa comprise the best dinner ever! I can also take the train to San Francisco on a whim and explore museums while burning off the heavenly honey cake I indulged in at a charming Parisian cafe. I can drive to Lake Tahoe early in the morning when the birds and sun are still in a slumber and begin a refreshing hike by meeting the sun on the reflection of the giant blue-green lake. I can choose any coffee shop in Sacramento, occupy a seat steadfastly, and devour a novel while people enter and leave in a blur around me.

The problem with freedom is having too many choices.

I have the freedom to decide who I want to be in a relationship with, that decision is purely mine. Similar to the dizzying amount of profiles on dating apps, there are too many options of men I could date or marry or ignore. So when the right man comes along, how will I recognize it’s time to make a big commitment?

Life was drastically different for my parents’ generation. My parents and their peers, who grew up in India, mostly had arranged marriages. My mom was presented with very few options of men before she agreed to marry my dad after meeting him once. She did have the right to reject a proposal, but she encountered extensive societal pressure to get married early without fully knowing the person she would spend the rest of her days with. It was a huge leap of faith, a leap I’ve been unwilling to take so far.

I have the freedom to form as many goals as I want:  I hope to learn as much as I can, evolve in my personal development, find a fulfilling career (and then change careers every 10 years hehe), give back to the world, explore a variety of books/places/foods/activities/experiences, enjoy time with friends, settle down only when I meet someone who’s on my wavelength, and try to find meaning in my everyday existence. In contrast, my parents had fairly simple goals when they first immigrated to the U.S.: raise a family and earn money through engaging work. Maybe my attention is diverted in too many directions?

I have the freedom to live away from my family and close friends because of financial independence, career aspirations, and personal preferences. This means I can live nearly anywhere on the planet! Maybe I’m living in Northern California simply to savor the scenic wilderness of the Sierra mountains. 🙂

Sometimes I yearn for simple paths instead of a maze of hundreds of trails. Sometimes I crave one choice for dinner instead of ten. And sometimes, I wish I didn’t have the financial freedom and family support which allowed me to quit a career just to explore my authentic self. These things would have led to a simpler life.

Nothing has come easy for me, and it’s because I sought out the complicated maze of trails and got lost in the thick forest. This foray into freedom started when I left my parents’ home at the innocent age of 17. Upon reflection, I am grateful for the zigzag labyrinth of adventures encountered along the journey. That freedom of choice is the most precious treasure I have, even if it is transient!

-devs

 

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Toni Morrison’s Views on Work

The New Yorker Magazine can go to extremes to appease its well-educated and slightly stuffy audience.  In depth articles on plant behavior, lingerie in the Middle East, and Bob Marley’s life can get overly complicated. But sometimes they publish pieces that are generous in their simplicity and authenticity, allowing one’s heartstrings to be pulled as if a harp is being strummed for a Celtic tune.

The following New Yorker excerpt by Toni Morrison, which describes her father’s advice about her childhood job, is one of those moving bodies of words that washes away built-up grime.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/05/the-work-you-do-the-person-you-are

Advice that Toni Morrison received from her father:

  1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.
  2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.
  3. Your real life is with us, your family.
  4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.

In the words of Toni Morrison herself:

“I have worked for all sorts of people since then, geniuses and morons, quick-witted and dull, bighearted and narrow. I’ve had many kinds of jobs, but since that conversation with my father I have never considered the level of labor to be the measure of myself, and I have never placed the security of a job above the value of home.”

A big thank you to Toni Morrison’s father for arguing against the career-driven, individualistic American way of life. He stressed the importance of family and home and core identity which are unrelated to one’s work. When I left a career in medicine and was jobless, I had no clue who I was outside of my identity as a doctor. What did I value? What hobbies did I have? Who did I enjoy hanging out with?

To be honest, it was that value of home that saved me from losing my sense of self. It was my friends and family members (and dog!) who lifted me up to try harder,  be better, and smile brighter. My family accepted me despite setbacks with my career because they knew all along that my core would never change. I learned that jobs can come and go but your support system never leaves you.

I am extremely grateful to my family for their unconditional love, and I must also thank myself for discovering who I was at my barest moment.

This New Yorker piece also applies to those entering retirement as they will be challenged to create a meaningful life without a career. I hope you can learn from Toni Morrison’s experience and spread this simple yet powerful wisdom!

-devs-