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The Longing To Be Free of Responsibility

Surely nothing is more empowering than knowing that you’re free to do as you please. And yet there’s something vaguely unsettling about it. There’s a heaviness to the thought, when by all rights it should feel lofty and liberating. Because if it’s true that you’re in control of your own destiny, it must also be true that you alone are in control. That whatever fate ends up befalling you, it’ll have your name written all over it. Which leaves you cursed with a feeling of perpetual responsibility, left with nobody to blame but yourself.

Of course, none of us is ever fully in control of our lives. Everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle. You can only wonder how many of your decisions were secretly preordained or precluded by forces outside your control—by history or prejudice, biology or dumb luck. At the end of most days, you can fairly shrug off the weight of your daily misfortunes, reassuring yourself, It wasn’t your fault. But soon enough you’ll start to wonder, Okay... now what? And you’ll start to feel the burden of tomorrow land on your shoulders.

Such is the blessing and the curse of being an adult. Life is certainly richer than it was when you were a kid, and it’s a tremendous feeling to know that you’re beholden to no one. But life is not nearly as fun as it once was, in part because now you’re on the hook for it. By this point you know all too well that you’ll have to pay for whatever silly little things you do, even though the cost is rarely clear ahead of time. It’s like shopping in a store without price tags. You think you have a pretty good idea what things cost, but then you start to wonder if you might’ve been guessing wrong, unwittingly building up a debt you’ll have to pay back for years. Somehow that doesn’t matter; you’re going to have to deal with it anyway. What else can you do but make your choices, make your bets, and make your peace with not knowing what happens next.

Still, there’s a part of you that longs to be free to do as you please, without having to carry the burden of freedom. As you make your way through the day, your brain is hard at work trying to come up with excuses, trying to argue away your ownership of your own life. That’s why you feel mysteriously drawn toward certain situations that just happen to let you off the hook. Perhaps you lean on deadlines to force your hand at the last minute, or put everyone else’s desires before your own. You might be tempted to define yourself by victimhood or self-diagnosis, as if all of your flaws were merely symptoms of some huge systemic problem outside your control. Maybe you lose yourself in work or play or drunkenness, or surrender to the arbitrary dictates of your own moods. Perhaps you have a habit of dreaming of epic tales and cosmic forces, as if worldly concerns don’t really matter. Or you simply try to do as little as possible, thinking it’s safer than having to choose. There are a million different excuses for why your choices were never really your own, and why your mistakes aren’t technically mistakes. But sooner or later, the debt must be paid. It’s hard to get it out of your head.

It’s only at night, right as you fall asleep, that you can finally feel the burden lift off your shoulders. Dreams come and go without a second thought. Your sleeping mind has no choice but to own itself, to forgive itself, to forget itself. Yet your body doesn’t quite trust its own judgment, and keeps your limbs locked and frozen in place. So even then, at a time when you’re free to do as you please, you’re still the only thing that’s holding you back.

There will always be a certain lingering question you keep asking about yourself, that never really goes away: to what degree are you responsible? Any clear and unambiguous answer is surely doomed to be a fantasy. So you might as well learn to live with the mystery. Forgive yourself or hold yourself accountable. Try to be yourself or try to be better. Let go or don’t let go. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

From wither, to become weak and shriveled + whither, to what place + will, the ability to make choices.










Gaudia Civis



Mogging Folly


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