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Bon Journal

The dependence of being independent

A long time ago, a classmate observed that I was terrified of becoming dependent and that more than anything I wanted to be independent. How does one become truly independent? Why would I want to be independent?

My father taught us to be financially independent from a very young age. As children, we started putting money away, learning to save and budget. When we graduated from high school, he expected us to leave home and become "independent." I, for one, truly felt that I could not call or return home when I felt homesick or wanted to give up. I could only look forward and outward.

Being independent meant not having to rely on anyone. Being independent was necessary for survival. To me, being independent meant having my head rule my heart.

These days I come across the term co-dependence. I hear of couples who are interdependent on each other. More than being complementary, they actually need each other to live normally. In a long term relationship, one might fear that breaking-up would be more than hard to do, but that one would become weak without having the other to depend on. The few books I read on this subject seem to speak negatively of such co-dependence. Yet, for many it works.

So now I ask myself again: what is the value of being truly independent? Is it to comfort my father that I have met his wishes? Is it to brag to others that I am invincible? Or is it to prove to myself that after all this effort, it is okay to depend on others and enjoy the comfort of relationships that grow and prosper. In this networked society, how can anyone be truly independent? With globalisation, we all become one node in a spiralling and sprawling web of interdependencies.

To be truly independent, I must not have any expectations of others. I would have to be self-sufficient in every aspect of my daily life. Could I then live without hopes, dreams, and expectations? Aren't those the things that life is made of?

Recently someone asked me gently, "are you afraid of getting involved because you don't want to get hurt?"

The answer to that, I discovered, is "Yes, I am afraid of relationships. Not that I'd get hurt, but that I may become dependent."

And of course, he was right. If I become dependent, I start to have expectations, dreams, and hopes. As my sister once said, "The pessimist will never be disappointed." To expect, dream, and hope invite the chance of being disappointed. And rejection and disappointment eventually leads to ......... getting hurt.

2 June 2001