The Truth About Independence

We all want it, claim to have it, yet deny it the moment it is in our hands. Independence somehow seems far less appealing once you realize what it truly entails.

Being out in the real world is much more unforgiving than is to be expected. People honestly don’t care if you go the extra mile or not. They tend to oversee every good deed but pause at the slightest imperfection — even though they themselves are far from perfect. Independence is not something that is rewarded or acknowledged. It is simply a state of being that very few people truly master.

As high school students, we tend to convince ourselves that we are independent because we can do group projects without asking for help, study all through exam time, or run some errands for mom. Once you get to college, you realize that those small tasks are daily activities of living and that being independent relies more on being able to stay disciplined in all areas — be it eating habits, studying material, or simply going to class. It becomes inevitable, and the cracks on the ground on which you firmly stood become visible as you realize that you are not who you thought you were.

Independence is like homing pigeons. They are guided from the moment they are born, marked by their owner to prevent loss. They get nudged into taking their first flight (no matter the possibility of injury), just as we are encouraged to take our first steps and to start recognizing objects without being told what they are. After being kept on a tight leash, the pigeons are then allowed the privilege to wander around in a larger (yet still closed off) environment as they get familiar with their surroundings. In the same way, we are placed in the suitable primary school and allowed to make our own friendships from which we stumble and grow. Once they have identified their surroundings as home, they are set free, but only to circle a common area in preparation for the possibility of long journeys ahead. We go off to high school and believe wholeheartedly that we are becoming independent, not realizing that we were trained our entire lives to circle our close surroundings.

We crave to explore what waits outside the parameters, and we get ready for the big flight, ready to see the diversity we have been missing out on. Yet, when the time comes for us to fly, we don’t explore at all, do we? We soar over and above, diligently keeping an eye on every town we ever wished to see. We graze overhead, and only once hunger, uncertainty, decision-making, and solitude settle in do we see that independence is not so appealing after all. Some of us have the courage to make a pit stop, swooping down, only to get lost in the process. At the end of the day, we do what we know best: We circle all the way around and head back to security, the way we were trained.

Human beings are humorous. We always want what we don’t have until we have it.

We don’t ever achieve independence, but who ever said it is compulsory? After college we may get married and become dependent on a life-long partner. The role of dependence then shifts to a different gear as our children rely on us, yet we still depend on their love and understanding.

We don’t need to be independent. We must simply be able to rely on our own decisions and accept the consequences. We must be able to trust ourselves while using the support of others to guide us through.

Zéandri Rautenbach is a high school graduate with her adulthood staring her in the face. Even though her name is hard to pronounce even in her own country, South Africa, she wears it with pride. When she isn’t releasing her emotions in a book, she’s showering them out on paper. Nothing brings her more joy than supporting people through her stories, and she hopes that this will one day amount to becoming a novelist. Other than literature: antiques, classical music, and hysterical puns (even though she can’t make them) are her fuel. She can be reached on Facebook or Instagram: @zeandrirautenbach

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