“I think it’s neat you do what you want. Not enough chicks do that, if you ask me–just tell society and their expectations to go fuck themselves. If more women did that, we’d be better off.”― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Equally important, though, is that we celebrate our own independence, who we are as individuals and what separates me from you and you from the rest of the pack. We are taught that, at the most basic genetic level, no two people are alike. Yet, we still struggle to differentiate ourselves, men from other men, women from other women, photographers from other photographers, clowns from Republican Presidential candidates (I’m sorry, that last statement really is insulting to clowns and I hope they’ll forgive me). Our world is so overcrowded that it is difficult to find our own voice in an environment where too often we can’t even hear ourselves think.
We also have to face the danger that in our effort to separate ourselves from the pack we lose sight of the fact we are all still human. For all our talk about individuality, there are still some aspects of our existence where we must join together and act as a unit, putting all our differences aside. We do this to protect our common good, provide for the general welfare, and to secure the liberty we hold so dear. When we become so separate as to not participate in the necessary aspects of humanity, we sacrifice not only our independence but our common brotherhood.
I’ve known more than a few people who had to strike out on their own at an early age, leaving behind what barely passed as a family in an effort to somehow survive the conditions into which they had been unceremoniously dumped. Crack babies can grow up to graduate college with honors. Abandoned children who were almost twelve years old before they found out food was supposed to be hot went on to become strong, solid, caring individuals. A young man whose father was murdered in a drug deal goes on to be a successful entrepreneur. A little girl who was told she’d never amount to anything becomes CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Independence. Mine. Yours. Some wear it in their hearts. Others wear it on their skin. No matter how your independence evolved or how it presents itself now, that do-or-die individuality within you is worth celebrating. Go ahead, light a sparkler or two, set off a brightly colored rocket, or put a match to a string of firecrackers. Celebrate our Independence. Celebrate your Independence. As different as we all are, when it comes right down to it we’re a great country.