How I Learned To Love Responsibility
It’s a loaded word, isn’t it?
From whistle-blowers exposing hidden injustice to leaders declaring “I don’t take responsibility at all,” our culture has a complicated relationship with responsibility.
From the good folks at The Oxford Dictionary:
the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone:
“a true leader takes responsibility for their team and helps them achieve goals”
synonyms: authority, control, power, leadership, management, influence, duty
I was a powerful daydreamer as a school kid, so my teachers did everything in their power, from gentle hints to not-so-gentle manipulations and outright shaming, to hammer the thing they were calling responsibility into my youthful cranium.
It didn’t go well, and I developed something of an intolerance for the word.
To me – and I know I’m not alone in this – responsibility became conflated with onerous burdens and obligations to forces outside myself, far afield of my preferences.
It became synonymous with all-things “have to.”
Making my way through late adolescence and young adulthood, living on my own whilst chasing my own passions, something started happening.
I was unaware at the time, but in following my heart into the mountains, and later into artmaking, a much more real version of responsibility was taking root. I was making choices and living according to my own preferences. Not only was I fulfilled, I was also paying my rent, my taxes, and surrounded by tight communities of folks doing the same.
In doing all that good stuff, me and responsibility were getting to know each other in different ways.
I didn’t have the language at the time, but much later my mentors taught me that true, conscious, adult responsibility is a joy and privilege.
The biggest shift was moving from “I have to…” to “I get to…”
It was a head-twister at first, but over time it’s proven real, true, and packed with a kind of substance that leaves little room for the old religion my well-intended teachers were trying so hard to pour into my younger self.
And I’ve come to embrace, and yes, love this flavor of responsibility.
I mean, I get to!
Consider this an invitation to look at your own relationship to responsibility. A great place to begin is noticing whether you have responsibility – or if responsibility has you.
I’d be remiss – and not entirely responsible – if I didn’t wrap by saying this responsibility stuff is an ongoing practice. As a human being, I continue to screw it up now and again. As in any relationship, the learning never ends.
One final note: This is my last piece for 2022! A special thanks to my subscribers and other regular readers!
Happy Holidays and a Happy, Healthy New Year to all! I look forward to seeing you again in 2023!