Oops. I made a huge mistake. - An Essay on my core value, Freedom.

We are the easiest at fooling ourselves.

Whether it’s a diehard alcoholic saying “I can stop myself if I wanted to” when he downs his 20th shot and crashes his new car into The Saint Louis Arch, or a pickup artist convincing himself he’s not needy by hiding that part of himself from his own psychology, we’re all masters of self-foolery.

Every one of us has compromised his own relationship with himself at one point. To say otherwise is a blatant lie.

I’ve been lying to myself for a long time, and I’ve also been lying to you.

I have a deep fear of commitment. Part of it is my age, at 26 I’m a little late to be super afraid of commitment, but it’s not unheard of in this day and age.

But a big part of it is unresolved traumas relating to my parent’s divorce and my continuous moving around as a kid. I won’t get into details about that in this article, that’s between me, myself and my therapist.

I will discuss the dangers of holding freedom as your highest value and, using reason and philosophy and my own ingeniousness rebuild the definition of freedom from the ground up, redefining it rather than chopping it off the list of my highest values.

Through reading this I hope to instill you with:

  • an understanding of a key obstacle in many people’s path towards success and fulfillment

  • a key way we can fool ourselves into thinking the easy, fun, quick way is always the best

  • a path towards internal fulfillment through a clear definition of a personal value.

But first… a story.

I went to Palm Beach State College in 2011. I’d just graduated with my High School Diploma with a just-over-2.0 GPA.

A chaotic upbringing and an adolescence in a strict and unpredictable group home changed my trajectory, instilling me with a deep hunger for freedom.

Like any adolescent, I wanted my own peace and exploration. To find what I wanted, what gave me pleasure so I could commit to a path that worked for me.

But there was an issue… Instead of exploring and finding different things which I enjoyed, I became stuck in the "exploration” phase.

Now don’t get me wrong - I don’t believe we should be defined by what we do or that we’re doomed to stick to one career regardless of any blatant signs which point us in other directions.

I’m just sharing the importance of committing to something even when we don’t always want to in the moment… Momentary sacrifice for a long-term goal.

So I’d explore and find things I enjoyed… Psychology, chemistry, science, programming, art, design.

And I took a few extra classes in these things.

But at the first sign of trouble I bailed.

I’d stick around for some time, pushing my limits, but if I found it hard I wouldn’t try.

I can remember times and experiences where I can explain this phenomenon away as a product of my environment, and legitimately so, but we’re all responsible for our own selves. We have what we have, and it’s our responsibility to work with the clay.

And I had both a static mindset, as well as a fear of commitment.

The reason I didn’t want to push towards a goal is two-fold.

  1. I was taught I was smart. And I was… I got As and Bs through all math classes through the first half of Calc II WITHOUT STUDYING ONE MOMENT! This taught me I didn’t need to try, I would just succeed all the time because of an intrinsic quality I had which I didn’t need to work on.

  2. I was afraid to commit. Seeing how my parents’ divorce wrecked both their lives for a few years, and how it wrecked mine caused me to fear commitment. Plus my constant moving as a child showed me I couldn’t form attachments (a form of commitment) because everything disappeared from me. What if commitments I made turned out like my parents’ marriage? What if it works out then it leaves like every home and friend I’ve ever met? I needed to protect myself and the way I chose was to not make commitments at all.

    An aside to the reader:

Before you get on your high horse and say “Oh Joe, these are only your experiences… they don’t apply to me! I have Youtube videos to watch and girls to bang…” I’ll say this: It’s quite likely you don’t have the same hangups I do. It’s also somewhat possible you don’t have similar hangups at all! But! I’d bet you 90% of people reading this resonate at some level with my fear of commitment.

And you see how it’s hurt you by causing you to avoid decisions you’ve made which you wish you could change. How you wish you took that chance on that opportunity, or not made that choice out of fear.

You know the choice I made.

So I encourage you to read to the end. Feel free to click off and do what you want. I know she’s texting you and she’s got that rockin’ bod. But you’ll miss something that may rock your world and open doors internally and externally that otherwise would remain closed. And if she’s cool enough for you, she’ll like the fact that you’re working on yourself and reading stuff like this.

Also to be clear to my parents if they are reading this, I love you both and I know you did your best. You sacrificed so much energy, patience, money and devotion to me I am so grateful for. I internalize no blame, except perhaps for some crystallized in unprocessed emotions which I intend to process.

So these fears lived inside me, causing me to push away every girl I dated, alienating them out of fear of my parents’ divorce recurring in my own life. I changed major after major because it got hard and I thought having to do work meant I wasn’t smart, and that’s the only asset I thought I had.

And I wrapped it all up in a heinous lie I told myself… It was all okay because my highest value was freedom!

And I shared this value with you, and my friends and myself.

But when I questioned my value, it broke apart. It as I defined it was clear and reasonable to an extent.

But as I lived it, it showed its cracks.

Freedom how I used it was an excuse to remain afraid of work and commitment.

A blanket I could cry in instead of confronting the world and my destiny.

A crutch I used to make everything easier, even though I didn’t need it.

The way I used freedom was hurting me.

The way I defined freedom, the ability to choose what you did, when you did it and how you did it, was great but had flaws and could be easily misused.

So I decided to redefine it.

But I decided to redefine it from the ground up. Taking out the rot in the floorboards, the fear of commitment - choosing a path and following it regardless of obstacles - that poisoned my value system.

Okay, so first we have to define the goal of life. Without this, we don’t know what we’re building, and we can’t build a good foundation. With this, we can tailor our values to our understanding of life.

What is life about?

  • Leaving the world better than when we found it, that’s a good start.

  • Forming relationships to help others grow and build a safe home and support system.

  • Leaving something for the world to enjoy once we’re gone. A legacy.

This is enough to direct our focus in forming a constructive definition of freedom.

What does freedom mean?

  • Ability to choose our commitments.

  • Ability to think our own thoughts, form our own ideas.

  • Ability to choose our own actions.

  • Ability to travel, work and form relationships as we please.

It doesn’t mean NO commitments. It means we get to CHOOSE our commitments.

A better way to sum this all up is:

  • Respecting our own sovereignty.

This brings up an interesting idea. If we are sovereign, this means we are:

  1. Free to act, think, travel as we desire.

  2. Responsible for our choices.

As the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

Here’s my version:

“With great freedom comes great responsibility.” -Joe Buchoff

And this was the half I neglected. I chose to drop out of school and travel the world, a choice I regret in some ways but also praise in others. If I would have done it over again, I’d either make the same choice or I would seek a therapist to help me make a more rational decision which could go either way. I didn’t see the world the same as I do now, and the travels were a necessary piece in this. I do not regret travelling one bit, but with the right therapist, I could have achieved my degree first and had a safety net to fall back on.

I sought freedom, but financially I depended on my family to support me.

I called up my family and asked for money on enough occasions where eventually they told me they decided not to help me. I didn’t take responsibility for my own money and I had to hit rock bottom before I did.

So… Freedom defined as respecting our own sovereignty is a much more constructive definition.

We can choose to do what we like, but we’re also responsible for the consequences.

What did this bring up in you?

I’m curious. When I read articles like this, I often discover things about my own journey. Please share what came up for you in the comments. I’ll read them all.