Commitment and place

Wednesday, 25 March 1998

In the first three years following my graduation from university, I struggled with the idea of commitment. I had no clue to what I should commit myself. I was also reluctant to devote myself to something or commit to it if there were a vague possibility of failure.

If you don’t have a focus point in your life, something you’re committed to, you are usually intensely aware of the effect this state of affairs has on your sense of well-being. Shortly after graduating from university (which left me with a small mountain of debt), I went to Europe for a few weeks (more debt). Whatever I tried to achieve with the trip, it did not succeed. Then I spent more than a year wandering between places in the hope that “something will happen” that could give me direction – in the hope that I might find something to which I can commit myself.

Eventually, I found myself in another foreign country, still looking for something to fill the void left by my lack of commitment. Or maybe I thought the mere fact that I was living abroad, away from the hassle of student loan creditors, away from even family and friends, would be enough – for the time being.

Alas, escaping does not work if you cannot escape from yourself. In my case, I could not escape the feeling that I don’t belong. If you’re not committed to something or someone, you’re not going to feel as if you belong. And if you don’t feel as if you belong, you’re going to experience what some academics call existential angst.

You can keep yourself busy for a while with a variety of things to make up for the lack of commitment in your life, but once the effect of these measures begins to fade, or if you get bored with it, you’re back at square one.

To what do people commit themselves? They commit to a religious entity, an idea, a dream, an ideal, or to someone else, a group or even a subculture. That to which I want to devote myself ought to be meaningful enough to keep my attention and to take hold of my imagination. It will also help if this focus point is of such a nature that, by keeping myself busy with it, I can provide for my daily needs.

I’m certainly a dreamer, but I am also realistic. I have seen enough, and I’ve experienced enough to know what kind of life awaits you if you are not free; if you are not in a position to make choices and act on them. I know what it feels like to wonder when you’re going to get evicted from your rental home, or to wonder when you’ll again sit down to a proper home-cooked meal, or to wonder if the next knock on the door will be the repo man. I know what it feels like to have dreams, but to not know whether a fraction of it will ever come true.

I can thus with a fair amount of certainty say that I am committed to the idea of freedom – freedom from debt bondage, and freedom from poverty. I can go further and say that I am dedicated to attaining a position that will provide me with a variety of options and to have access to the necessary resources to act on choices made; also to have the ability to give more than I ask. It only makes sense to then also commit myself to a path that would lead to financial wealth – not as an end destination, but as a path to freedom.

Where is a better place to commit myself to the above-mentioned ideals than the piece of earth where I was born and where my deepest roots still lie?