In America, independence is a folklore myth. It’s the core of who we are and what defines us– as a nation and as individuals. But in many ways it’s just that – a myth – and an often seemingly dangerous one. What does independence mean, really? Whose life is not shaped by the people (and institutions) that frame it?

I have been propelled by an intense desire for freedom my entire life. I would unconsciously seek security, folding into another, only to later rebel, as if ferociously guarding myself from some imagined predator. Throughout these cycles, I found myself financially dependent, deluding myself of its effects, chained as I was to the provider’s approval. It wasn’t the money that caged me, I later understood; it was my own need for validation. I don’t think this is uncommon. We are complex beings, often desiring one thing while acting out another. And yet, as I have matured and softened (and forgiven myself), I have come to realize that my desire for independence, like the desire for so many other things, is not so easily boxed or defined.

In astrology, three signs are most often associated with independence: Aries, Sagittarius and Aquarius. Aries is the first out of the gate, the warrior and champion, fueled by its hunger for new experiences. Sagittarius is the explorer, discovering the world as it quests for its own truth. And Aquarius is the unicorn, brilliant but emotionally aloof, preferring the intellectual realm to the murkier depths of the heart. But these signs, much like we humans, do not exist unto themselves. Each sign is opposed by another, connected by a common thread, but different in its application. Aries’s polarity, for example, is Libra, the very sign of partnership, while Sagittarius’s opposite is Gemini, the dual-natured, locally curious and socially-adept networker. And opposite Aquarius is Leo, the regal dramatic, pawing after affection and attention as it struts its stuff. Their so-called independence could, presumably, be seen as a reaction to their counter sign.

We are never fully independent. How can we be? Our very personalities are a layered response to the people – and experiences – that come to shape us. It’s a sliding scale, isn’t it? Some people seek constant companionship. Others, like myself, need more solitude. But in the end, we all crave human interaction. We’re wired for it.

So what is it, then, that constitutes independence? For some, maybe, it’s financial freedom. For others, perhaps, it’s freedom of expression. But even in these scenarios, there is some sort of reciprocity, a give and take. Who or what circumstance is providing that financial support? Who are you expressing yourself to, for or against? I think it’s something deeper, some ineffable quest for authentic self-expression.

And in the end, it’s likely interdependence that we seek, that place somewhere in between dependence and independence, where we own ourselves and meet the other, whole. But to arrive there, truly, mustn’t we first unburden ourselves of the dependence on others’ opinions that arrest us, that make us afraid to be ourselves, that keep us small? This isn’t an easy task, but it’s a necessary one, if we are ever to be truly free. Because aren’t we all, in the end, just yearning, simply, to be ourselves? Isn’t that the greatest liberation of all?

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