Safety Nets

My life can seem scattered to the outside observer. My projects are diverse, my interests are manifold, and my lifestyle is all over the map.

But there is a unifying thread that winds its way through everything I do: freedom. The freedom to be malleable and adaptable. To change my plans on a dime, to live where I want, to spend my precious time with the people I want to spend it with, and to apply my creative energy in the same way.

I am responsible for allocating my resources and energy, and the consequences of that allocation are mine to deal with.

I’ve lived according to the standard life model, and even did pretty well inside of it, for a time. But I can honestly say, based on my own experiences and those of people I know who have made similar lifestyle changes, that shrugging off such templates can be the most constructive thing you can do.

Some might look at a lifestyle so absent of the traditional trappings and consider it to be born of childish whimsy, but I would argue it’s the opposite.

When you’re a child, you make decisions that are uninhibited by the ‘way things are supposed to be done’ out of ignorance. You’re a kid, so you can’t possibly know where you fit in the world. So as a result you go out and you make mistakes and society is no worse off for it; there are inbuilt considerations for that kind of thing.

The flip-side of such accidental rebellion is a conscious, intentional effort to figure out who you are, what you want, and how to live the best life possible based on this knowledge.

This is similar to childhood in that you free yourself from conventional expectations of ‘how a proper person lives their life,’ but very different in that you bear all responsibility for your actions. To pursue this kind of lifestyle, you have to be comfortable extracting yourself not just from the restraints of typical society, but also from many of the safety nets therein. This is part of why many people are not comfortable taking the leap required to free themselves from imperfect situations: who will catch them if they fall?

There’s much concern in the working world over what happens when robots start replacing humans in earnest, across all industries. When machines make better secretaries and mechanics and convenience store workers and street sweepers, what will all those now-jobless people do for a living?

In my mind, the answer to this question is an exciting one: they’ll do whatever they want.

I’m not naïve enough to think there won’t be a tough transitional period. There will likely be years during which everything else works the same as it always has, and many people will find themselves out of work and adrift in an unfriendly system, tangled in the metaphorical safety net that’s always been there to catch them if they fall.

But I do think the arrival of such a change will be an amazing opportunity. From that point on, the jump required to extract yourself from some of society’s well-meaning shackles will be much simpler, because everyone else will be leaping right beside you.

Can it be scary not having a ‘nanny state’ to take care of your every potential need or stumble? Yes, it can be.

But is it rewarding to pick yourself up when you fall, and determine your own pace and destination as you move through life? Yes, absolutely.

Update: April 12, 2017

Hmm, that ‘tangled in the safety net’ visual is a good one that I haven’t thought of for a long while, and it’s even more relevant, today. Well done, Colin From Four Years Ago.

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