Rethinking my sense of freedom

It’s been a week since I’ve been back in Toronto from my 5 month long journey. It feels like I never left, but I still wonder what has changed – in my friends, family, myself, and the city. In my next few emails to you, dear reader, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned along the way, and how life’s changed. Maybe it’ll be useful, maybe not!

Where did I go? I left Toronto September 23, lived in Japan for three months, went back to Montreal for Christmas, then Hong Kong in January, with a short stop in Kuala Lumpur, then three weeks in Australia, followed by a few days in London, and finally three weeks in Brussels. I took a shower on a plane, ate caviar and drank bubbly in the air, patted koalas and kangaroos, met some fellow online bboy/entrepreneurs, finished BroForce, and even became part of a three-week artist residency in Brussels. I look back at all I did, and think wow, that’s actually a lot. How the hell did I do it?

At my random house-potluck-parties, I’ll meet people who openly admire the freedom that I seem to have. I’ve recently been rethinking the notion of freedom (the idea was inspired by Cal Newport’s book, existential philosophers like Sartre, and David Walsh) and I think you never have complete freedom. You always have a choice, but a choice always forgoes every other choice you had, even if you choose to do nothing. Opportunities don’t wait for people. When I think about the choices that I’ve made, it’s always been towards an idea of what freedom was: doing whatever you want, when you want. But really, it’s not that simple.

I ideally thought that I wouldn’t get a full time job, that I could make ends meet in other ways, and travel the world in the meantime, while dancing, cooking, reading and learning. So far it’s been a good life, but in order to live how I do, I realize that I’ve had to give up a lot of other things. There are things that I won’t do that other people do all the time. I rarely sleep in hotels, but for other people that’s their normal way of travel. Hotels cost way more money, but it might be more comfortable than someone’s couch or floor. I don’t actually get something for nothing (although sometimes we aren’t aware of what we’re giving up) and I never know if the transaction will turn out for the better. And so it is with our lives. Sometimes I wonder what my other lives could have been. I could have been an investment banker, spending 80 hours a week at an office, playing with millions of dollars and people’s livelihoods. Maybe I would love being to buy anything that I wanted – I could eat at all the best restaurants, I could have the best kitchen supplies, I’d have a beautiful home filled with art that I loved, a fast car, maybe I’d have a hot wife who was equally driven. Maybe I actually would have loved what I’m doing.

I could spend all day disparaging or dreaming about what I could have done, but it’s never relevant to live in the future or past like that. I can’t know what universes those other choices would have created, and that’s not even considering all the options that we can’t see.

Instead I would rather enjoy what I have, and appreciate the opportunities that I am able to see. Maybe I don’t end up living the ‘optimal life’, but unlike a math equation, I don’t know all the variables. Choosing what to do with your life isn’t as simple as solving for X. All I can do is make a choice with the information I have. Cutting out options can give you the freedom to focus on what you want and create an extraordinary existence. I won’t do something that’s very likely to be stupid. I will do things that are scary but have a huge payoff if they succeed. Maybe I’ll eat a donut every now and then too (I love sour cream donuts, so if you ever want to show love, send me one!).

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