From dependent to independent to interdependent

One year ago I was suffering from depression. I was working at a stable company with more than enough income to maintain my lifestyle, fixed schedule that gave me ample time to explore my private activities, and creative freedom in my workplace. I even had a blueprint for a “sustainable” career that brings the best of stable paycheck and creative ambition.

But one thing that I needed most was not available: passion. It was unexplainable that the moment I had prepared all conditions to fulfill my dream, the dream itself disappeared. I was the groom who was left in the alter alone after the bride had ran away at the last minute. I did not know what I wanted to do in my life anymore.

Eventually I got out of my depression thanks to helps from my dear friends and mentors, but the apathy continued until I finally decided to change the course of my life drastically by leaving the employed life (and its benefits). It was the only feasible (but impractical, so to say) option left for me.

And then, as the cliché goes, my passion and motivation and creativity and dream started to come out again. People say fairies exist sprinkling dusts of inspiration, but in my case they are sneaky dwarves selling the magical dust, particle by particle, in exchange for money or status or security.

I have been wondering why my motivation resurfaced (this very article is one of the results). Because I changed my future “plans”? Because I have nothing to lose? Because I have reduced my stress level? I checked changes in my thinking and attitude, but I found no convincing reason.

The answer came when I was discussing with a friend of mine about a different subject: my writing schedule of approximately four hours a day, a habit I partially acquired from The Artist’s Way (a therapy book for recovering artists). The idea is that quantity tops quality: even if you do not find anything interesting to write, you must keeping moving your fingers and type words after words until you reach the day’s quota.

And then it hit on me: It is what I Do, not what I Think, that allowed my passion genie to crawl out of the den. I am currently giving almost all of my productive hours (right after I wake up until my lunchtime) to something that produces no income, is totally self-indulgent, and has no objective criteria of success. It is all about Me.

Looking back, my previous mode of life was all about someone else: going to a particular place on a particular time and working for a particular goal and accepting judgements by a particular standard. (Note: Dissing employed life in general is not my intention—I am describing how I was operating in my employed days. Read to the end and you will see more in detail.)

In both employed/self-employed modes, how I perceive my life (through my brain) and how I act on my life (through my body) are different. In my employed mode, I thought I was living my life, but in fact, I was oblivious to the fact that my actions were telling my whole body that I was living someone else’s plan. In my self-employed mode, my body has been receiving the message that I am living my life, through my actions not necessarily through my thinking.

My body was far more convincing than the frivolous thinking in my brain, and the inspirational but sensitive motivation genie finally came out from under the rock after he became sure that he wouldn’t be tossed into a garbage can for having some crazy (but creative) ideas, because he saw what I had been doing, not what I had been saying.

It is all about what I do to myself, not what I say to myself. (There is a reason why every father tells his daughter to watch what her potential mate does for her, not say to her.)

So, we can’t live our life when we are employed? That is simply untrue: I have seen loads of people who truly lived their own lives while having secure employment. But looking back, every one of those super-humans (for me) has one thing in common. They know exactly when they are doing things for themselves and when they are doing things for others.

They mix those two modes physically by being in the present for themselves as well as others, but they never mix them mentally—they know when the switching occurs and they are in control. I certainly did the opposite. Physically I was either serving others completely or retreating in my private space, and mentally I did not control anything—everything depended on whatever situation I was in.

In the end, it is not at all about swinging between two extreme modes: Employed vs. Independent. It is about being in touch with ourselves all the time. In my case, because I was so much into the serving-other-people mode, I needed to take a radical approach to swing to the opposite extreme of serving-myself-first mode to shake things up.

I did the first bone-cracking chiropractic life adjustment to let myself get in touch with…myself. The next step might be to continue the journey by slowly incorporating other people’s agendas back into my life and live together, because as the old saying goes, no man is an island.