Of Pressure and Responsibility

One definition of the word RESPONSIBILITY is, “the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.”

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted this for myself. My earliest memory is sitting on the porch of our house in Oakland, CA at 2 years old, watching my older brothers skate around the block. They would disappear in one direction and magically reappear from the other direction. I wanted to do that too!

Years later, I’m in the 2nd grade and I decide to ditch school for the first time. Me and a buddy climbed over the fence at recess and ran down the street to the neighborhood corner store. The plan was to get some candy and then run back to school before recess was over… and we did it! We ran to the store, got that candy, ran back to school, hopped the fence and were back before recess was over enjoying our candy and relishing in our adventure.

I yearned to be free to move, think, say and be. The responsibility of being “grown”. I believed that responsibility came with a healthy amount of freedom. Freedom of movement and the ability to self-actualize.

One definition of the word PRESSURE is, “force that you produce when you press hard on something. If you are experiencing pressure, you feel that you must do a lot of tasks or make a lot of decisions in very little time, or that people expect a lot from you.”

When a friend of mine, Jimmer, was a kid, he pretty much did whatever his parents told him to do. On occasion he would choose to do the opposite, however those occasions were rare. One such occasion was when he was 5 years old.

He was walking thru Toys-R-Us with his father looking for some parts to dress up a bicycle they found near the garbage of their apartment complex. His father was very excited to make the bike look brand-new. Meanwhile some toys on another aisle caught Jimmer’s attention so he wandered off…unbeknownst to his father.

From a distance Jimmer hears his father excitedly calling his name. Jimmer walks towards the sound but as he gets closer, his father’s voice moves further away so Jimmer changes directions. Sometimes the voice is on the next aisle over, other times its aisles away. Perhaps this is a game, he thinks to himself.

But alas, it wasn’t. By the time he caught up to his father he knew he was in trouble. His father was angry… and scared. His father wasn’t afraid of anything, but something had scared him. Later, after enduring a long lecture about not wandering off, being responsible, and using your voice to speak up, none of which made much sense, Jimmer decided that he would never wander off again. Because what did make sense to him was that he did something to scare his father and he didn’t want that to happen again.

That day Jimmer unconsciously decided to limit his opportunities.

Accepting responsibility creates opportunities but succumbing to the pressure of having to be responsible limits your opportunities.

The intersection of responsibility, pressure and opportunity are multiple slices at the same coin. One person sees opportunity on the other side of accepting responsibility while another feels the pressure and chooses to avoid the responsibility. One person occupies a space of limitless opportunities while the other finds a world of limited opportunity.

That one decision which we make repeatedly throughout our lives determines how we walk through our life and how happy we are with it.

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