I really love this little note I found on a lamppost in Ybor City, Florida last spring. To me, it meant a lot of things. At the time I took this photo I was wrestling with my anxiety, trying to make sense of what it meant and I found myself spending a lot of time lost in thought about what my life would have been like if I had maybe “let go” a little more. Maybe my life would be better if I was freer, has followed less rules, listened to less advice…maybe then I wouldn’t have to deal with my annoying and constant anxiety.
You see, I’m one of those people that finds a lot of appeal in the concept of escaping. I love the idea of running away, having no responsibilities, being a Bohemian…sounds great for a millennial, right?
A conversation I sometimes have with my friends is why so many students of our generation want to travel so much. I myself, having done a bit of traveling get why it appears to be really exciting and enchanting. But the reality is that it is far more heartbreaking and transforming than many of my peers realize. It’s NOT glamorous and I would argue, that if you’re looking for adventure, stay at home. Looking for adventure causes problems for many people you interact with as you travel…to be perfectly honest, I find the trend of being a “free spirit” a little irresponsible. And that’s coming from someone who is actually a “free spirit” Fake freedom isn’t all that exciting folks.
As millennials we have all these fancy labels for ourselves, and generally I don’t think we really know what they mean. I don’t think we understand how meaningless they are. It wasn’t until after I had done some serious thinking that I realized the solution to my anxiety had nothing to do with running away or making my life simpler or being impulsive. “One way to find out” is a great motto for someone who doesn’t care about the consequences. And if I learned anything from four months abroad, its that you can NEVER run from responsibility. Allow me to speak honestly my millennial buddies:
I don’ care if you’re a painter, a musician, a bohemian or an expat living in a hostel in Amsterdam, you have a responsibility to the world around you. You cannot just check out. You are never free from your obligation to moral courage.
If you were to tell me this last year I would have defended my generation: we’re kinda perfect. We’ve got the hunger of our hippie grandparents, we want peace and harmony. And yet, we still desire close ties and the security of our own parents who encouraged us to go to school and if we HAVE to become liberals, at least we’ll have a college degree. But something is so desperately missing in these odd combinations. We claim we want freedom, but we don’t want it to cost us anything. We want the world to be socially conscious but we spend our spare money on hipster clothes. We want education for everyone but we want to be artists, not teachers.
Frankly, after a very long and angry struggle with myself, I have learned something really special that I think we all need to grab a hold of as we millennials become adults: fake “freedom” will not only cost YOU, it will cost the people around you. And I’m not sure it’s worth it.
I’ve decided that I’m going to care about the things I say I care about. I think at some level that is the truest form of freedom: sincerity of compassion. My favorite Bible verse (if I can get churchy for a second 😉 ) is Galatians 5:13: “YOU my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another in love.”
I am a little fed up with millennials, especially Christian millennials, saying they want freedom. They might say they want it for themselves or others but either way, many of my peers end up indulging the flesh anyways. They loose sight of the second sentence of that verse. The part that makes it clear that our freedom was never just for us, it was for others, it was for God.
Well. I talk a lot. But if you can find, in all this rambling of a teenage angsty college student, a call to be sincere in your compassion, than maybe it was worth it.