By Tasnim Shahjahan, IATG ContributorJuly 14, 2016
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines the word independence as "freedom from outside control or support."
But what does this mean?
Independence is a complicated concept. As humans, we like to think it’s what sets us apart from animal creatures. From the beginning of our lives, independence is something we seek. It’s our natural instinct to test boundaries and do things on your own.
However, we can’t just do whatever we want. There are certain rules if we want to live within a community. For example, the basic rule of life: don't take someone else's life, dignity, or property.
Do I consider myself independent? Sometimes.
I moved out of my parents house a long time ago, and since then, I’ve slowly become more established to support myself. I cook my own dinners, I clean my own room, I pay my own rent, I often make decisions without consult, I do many things that are considered "adult," and thus, "free of support."
But being independent is more than paying your own bills and making decisions.
Yes, it makes you a functional and responsible adult. But does that really make you truly independent? Are you ever your own person, free of influence? As a socially adjusted human being, it should be our goal to become fully independent, right?
In elementary school, my fifth grade teacher had us complete a reading exercise. We read a series of statements and determined if they were facts or opinions based on wording and tone. I often remember this exercise when I’m reading.
I read a lot of opinion articles and a lot of peer reviewed journals that contain triangulated data. I like to learn about different points of views. In grad school, we are trained to write with objectivity (without bias and with a stronger focus on evidence than personal conclusions). In discussions, I often play devil's advocate just to gain insight on the other person's perspective. People often get confused by this, as their views are challenged without the alternative of my view.
But in real life, is anyone really free from influence? Isn't our ability to think critically what makes us human?
Conforming to an established system helps a person create their identity. Without an established system, there would be no labels. How would you know who you are and where you belong without labels? Labels help create culture.
I'd like to think I'm stubborn enough to create my own identity. I don't like to conform to everything. But I’m not a rebel either. Rules are just guidelines anyway, right? It’s important to consider different perspectives and make your own decision.
For me, the journey to become more independent is still in progress.
What does independence mean to you? Take some time to write down five goals you’d like to achieve to reach a higher level of independence then PURSUE THEM!
Tasnim loves to travel, eat good food, and be around good company. She requires sunlight and fresh air to function. Tasnim lives in DC and works in global health. You can read more about her thoughts and adventures on her blog and instagram.