I find myself striving towards, but constantly falling from autonomy.

Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote about the struggles of searching for happiness in other people, places, memories…

The only place you can find happiness is in yourself. You can’t rely on anything else to provide a sustainable, constant source of gratification.

It’s a really good point, but I don’t always remember it.

There was a point in winter quarter when I was getting sidetracked, constantly thinking, what do others think of me? Amid all of the attention-seeking and obsessively-stressing (“obstressing”), I realized, I have to focus on myself and what’s good for me in the long term.


au·ton·o·my — ôˈtänəmē/ — noun

freedom from external control or influence; independence.

Autonomy is not a matter of selfishness. It’s a matter of survival, based off a mantra of self-love. Because you believe that nothing comes before your own peace of mind, it helps you better maintain a positive model of well-being.

Autonomous people hold themselves accountable for what they accomplish. They don’t slavishly follow schedules and rules, but they know that they have to go out and get what they want, make the tough choices and ask the difficult questions. They’re not waiting for anyone, and they’re not letting anything hold them back. They’re not tied down by people’s preferences or opinions, social standards or arbitrary expectations set by the circumstances they’re given. They lead a life doing what they feel, with free will.

One thing about autonomous individuals, they not only feel completely comfortable being alone for long periods of time, they crave it. They love living their everyday lives on their own, with the free time to listen to themselves instead of others.

Over the years, I’ve consistently improved at being comfortable being alone, whether it’s in the coziness of my own apartment or out in the real world, eating, sitting in class, walking around town. It leaves me feeling grounded, like I’m on my own path.

Autonomy means learning to make decisions to please yourself, not your family, not your friends, not your loved ones. At the same time, you understand that you cannot please everyone, and should not have to please everyone, so you don’t let that fact distract you or detract from anything you do.

In that way, your emotions aren’t governed by others’ actions or opinions. There’s no time for bullshit, you’ve got to, as Thomas Davidson says:

Rely upon your own energies, and so not wait for, or depend on other people.

Back in 2013, I wrote, “We come into this world alone, and we leave it alone.” The message is a bit dismal, but sobering. We don’t owe anyone anything, in the sense that paying someone back should never be our sole purpose, unless it’s out of love. Like Timothy DeLaGhetto did, when he surprised his parents with a check to pay off their mortgage:

At this stage in our lives, being in college encourages us to focus on our own growth and develop our passions. While we’re here, and even after we graduate, we don’t owe anyone anything. So stop worrying, and just focus on yourself, okay?

S/O to Sam for showing me this song:

One comment

  1. Pingback: 5 pieces of advice to succeed in college | Catherine Zhang

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