We’re inundated with advice in this life. Some of it screams at us to do more. To achieve more. To be more. To reach continuously for more. Other voices tell us to be content with where we are. To live in this moment. To simplify. To be satisfied with less. To shrug off the chains of materialism. How then do we find joy? How can we recognize it for ourselves when we’ve allowed and continue to allow others to define it for us? How do we discover what gives us joy? Not what makes others approve of us or our choices. Not what helps us to feel as if we belong to one exclusive club or another. Some chase romantic partners who don’t want them. Why? Perhaps because their desire for us would seem to be the ultimate stamp of approval. We struggle to find ways to curry favor from disapproving teachers and self-absorbed parents. We buy what we’re supposed to buy and criticize what we’re supposed to distain. To prove what? That we are who someone or some group says we should be? What if what came next were completely up to us? Maybe we’d still accomplish more in a year than most people do in a lifetime. Maybe we’d live on a boat and only have one pair of shoes. Neither is wrong. Or right. And yes many of us have responsibilities. But which of these demands on our time and resources are real and which are imagined or at least not defined by us? What is freedom? Is it perhaps as simple as a thought experiment in which we sweep all from our lives in a catlike swipe and then decide what to put back, to add, to leave on the floor? Does this sound juvenile? Naive? Ridiculous? Can we suspend belief in what we’ve been told? In what we’ve taken on faith as the only way? Can we decide for ourselves without insisting everyone else do it our way too? Can we be the captain of our own cheerleading squad? Can we be as kind to ourselves as we wish others were to us? Can we hold ourselves to account but do our own accounting? Can we continue to grow? I believe we can but not if we allow others to dictate when and how we flower or what fruits we will grow.