Responsibility and Freedom

I had a conversation just the other day about my caretaker/responsibility personality – whether it is innate or learned; whether I acquired it because I had to or I was born to it.

Glossing over all the details, I was forced to be ‘responsible’ and a caretaker at the age of 7, that’s when my younger brother was born. There are lots of children who take on adult responsibilities at a very young age, it isn’t all that unusual in the world. Perhaps in your world it might seem unusual but in the great big wide world it isn’t.

The older I got the more responsibilities I had.  My parents didn’t care what I did, where I went as long as my ‘responsibilities’ were taken care of.  By the time I was in 6th grade I was forging my parent’s signatures on all my school paperwork including my report cards. They never knew because they never asked – never asked about reports cards. Never asked about school trips. Never asked about me.

By the time I was 14 I knew how to write  a check, pay bills, make bank deposits. I had been doing all the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing for several years already.

Back in my day, where I lived, high schools had 3 programs, academic for those who wanted to go to college, business/secretarial for those who didn’t and general for those deemed incapable of the other two.  Parent’s got to choose which program their kid went in and had to sign off on the paperwork. My parents never saw that paperwork. I signed myself up for the academic program because I wanted to go to college. I was a junior in high school when my father finally tipped to the fact that I was not taking the secretarial course.

I was two people – the shy, quiet, mousy, compliant, responsible person they saw and the determined, competent, forward thinking, plotter and planner they never knew existed until the day I walked out the door.

Yes, as a child and a teenager I had a lot of freedom – to go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wanted. Nobody cared. And that was a good thing. Because I got to choose for myself who I was going to be.

And all those responsibilities – they were a good thing because I learned how to be an adult while I was still a child. So when the time came to exercise even more of my freedom I knew how.  Those responsibilities gave me the knowledge to navigate the practical world, to be able to take care of myself.

That was the war I fought within myself – those two people – always at odds.  The one who lived fancy free and the one who needed to be rooted and safe. The one who accepted no limits and the one who was afraid to truly test those limits.  The one who lived her life on her own terms and the one who accepted other people’s terms in the false hope of security.

Accepting other people’s terms never worked for me, never made me happy, never made me feel safe. Those times when I lived on MY terms, were the best, the happiest. I  might have made some choices that weren’t always the wisest but they caused me less pain than decisions made when living by someone else’s terms.

I haven’t been free in decades. I haven’t lived MY life, on MY terms in decades. I am mired in a swamp of responsibility that I don’t want and yet can’t walk away from.

I’ve sold myself for a false sense of security and safety. I’m living up to all the other’s expectations and to my responsibilities. And some people think I’m admirable but I’d rather be free.


6 thoughts on “Responsibility and Freedom

  1. though i didnt have any siblings to care for (only child), i had the freedom to do as i wanted. i dont feel that my parents didnt care, they were just busy with life and really didnt know about being parents. as a child, all i wanted to be was an adult. though i had a few friends, we would end up doing what we felt was adult play. i had a job in the 9th grade and had one until about 2 yrs ago when i felt i had enough to live on without working any longer. i left home after graduation from high school and really never went back. i have no regrets on how my life has been lived.

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  2. I find it interesting that you had more freedom as a child than you did as you got older even though in both situations you had/have responsibilities. If you could today, what would you do differently or where would you be? These are questions I feel like I need to answer these days to avoid ending up with regrets of missed opportunities or going down the wrong roads. My family isn’t one to venture out of their comfort zones so I want to avoid being like that if possible. Anyway, this was another incredible glimpse into your life that I enjoyed reading. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

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    • Most children have more freedom than most adults. The responsibilities of childhood don’t carry the same weight as the responsibilities of adulthood. I had more freedom that other children because my parents didn’t care what I did – so I went wherever I wanted, did whatever I wanted – What would I do differently? Hell, I wouldn’t have made the mistakes I made, or I would have learned from the first mistake and not made it again. But I didn’t, I just kept making the same mistakes. i do not ever play the woulda/coulda/shoulda game – at my age that is just a waste of time and emotional energy. You do that in the moment, when it happens, when you realize – Whoops – bad move. And then you learn not to do THAT again. As for comfort zones /missed opportunities/wrong roads – Whoa – those are HUGE questions. As an intelligent adult, you address those questions when they come up. Missed opportunity – like what – someone offering you a good deal on the Brooklyn Bridge? Or – a business venture where you look at the business plan, weigh the odds of success, and decide whether you can afford to lose your investment if it fails – those are the questions you ask before deciding to take advantage of the opportunity or pass it by. Same goes for “wrong roads” How do you know they are wrong – create a “map”, see if it’s feasible, look as far down the road as you can – then decide whether it’s the right road or the wrong road. Comfort zones? Some people have huge comfort zones and some people have small comfort zones. If you are happy in your zone, have no desire to go outside of it; don’t even wonder about what IS outside of it – then you’ll have no regrets about not venturing out of it. If your comfort zone serves your WANTS and needs and desires – it’s good. But – if you notice things outside your zone, and think wistfully about those things you see then it might be time to venture outside your zone. You can do it in baby steps, or you can weigh the consequences and do it big time. No matter what we do there will always be consequences – decide which ones you can live with, good and bad, and which you can’t. Then make your move. It is ALWAYS about weighing the consequences. And saying to yourself – “Screw it, I’m gonna do it”. Or, “no that makes no sense and truth is I don’t really want to”. I could give you examples but then this would run on for pages LOL What is it that you really, really want to do, and how feasible it it?

      (You always say you wear all black because wearing colors/patterns are outside your comfort zone – Start there why don’tcha LOL On your Hawaiian vacation you wore brighter colors and patterns – pretend you’re in Hawaii. And besides black does you no favors and is not flattering! What would happen if you went to your exercise class wearing bright pink leggings and an orange tank top? What would happen if you wore a red sequin top with a satin skirt, and ok, the skirt can be black, to the next fancy party? )


      • I didn’t feel freedom until I left Topeka at 23. As an only child, I spent my childhood mostly alone since my parents worked in other towns so weren’t home much. Up until 6th grade we lived in a very small town next to my grandma’s but after that, we lived in the country near no one I wanted to spend time with. I had more freedom when I got a car at 15 because I could actually leave the house and it was then I met J too. But, after my parents divorced the year after we got married, I rebeled and wanted out so bought a house in Colorado with no jobs and no plan other than I wanted out of KS. I did the same when we moved here. I wanted to move so we made it happen. Now it seems I get analysis paralysis when making decisions before I feel too responsible and also don’t want to fail. I want a house on the coast. I want to travel the country in an RV. I want to finish writing my book. I want to live in Hawaii for a year. I hold myself back and talk myself out of everything. The house on the coast and the RV thing are on hold anyway because of the animals. Even Lexi gets car sick so what good is a house that we can’t even get to regularly? Can’t leave the cats since they need meds every night. I’ve turned into a fuddy duddy! As for the bright pink leggings and orange tank top – that gave me butterflies in my belly and high anxiety just thinking about that! LOL!

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        • Fear of failure – Hey, if you don’t try, you won’t know and there again – Consequences, if you fail what is going to happen? You’re going to find out that you’re not good at something or other? Ok, good to know, on to something else.

          A house on the coast, travel the country in an RV – Have you ever lived for weeks.months in an RV? No? Hmmm – might not be your cup of tea. Solution? The next time you can plan a vacation, RENT an RV and travel the Oregon Coast for 2 weeks – first, you get to know what living in an RV is going to be like and two, you get to see what Coast towns are like and if you and J could make a financial go of living in one of those towns. “Cause like it or not, unless you are independently wealthy earning a living is still part of your lives – gotta pay the bills! Want to live in Hawaii for a year – again comes down to finances, you’re a CPA, age and location have no impact on your earning potential – you can work anywhere but J is in IT, and fast aging out of the system so to speak – that’s a young person’s game. At your age, finances are a real thing to take into consideration – at 23 you have your whole life in front of you, at 50, you have at least half of it behind you – that’s where I get super conservative – what will you have to live on when you’re 75? So – that year in Hawaii – could be tricky at this point in your life. Ah, and the cats and dog – well, you look into car sickness medications or you start now to get them used to the car, block by block. If that problem can’t be solved then the choice has been made, your pets over your passions…it’s a choice, you made it.

          Finish your book? Oh hell what is stopping you? You’re working part-time for that healthy body company, what are you doing the rest of the time? You have an amazing supportive husband – set yourself a schedule – pick 3 hours a day, same time every day, and sit down and finish the book. Will it be terrific? Will it be total dreck? Who knows, you won’t until you actually write the damn thing! And if it is awful, okay, at least you did it, got it out of your system, You failed? Ok, maybe writing is not your creative skill. NO ONE IS GOOD AT EVERYTHING. Find what you’re good at and makes you happy. Do THAT thing. Everybody crawls before they walk which means there was a lot of falling down and getting up again. (except me of course, supposedly I never crawled, just got up and walked one day, I got around by scooting around on my butt)


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