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“Independence is a heady draft, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.”

Maya Angelou

Independence is a word that parps out like a trumpet, a euphonic clarion call to self-determination. It is prized and celebrated, and who disputes the value of the freedom it can bring? It offers choice, agency and holds the romance of the open road, the mystique of the cat that walked on her own. It breeds resourcefulness, toughens; having an independent mind-set can lift you off in a multitude of new directions, without gravitational drag. It is a powerful motivator and a constant educator; it is an adventurous way of life.

It is also a double-edged sword and its taste, as Maya Angelou says is not always appealing. I admit: my own overriding need for independence has kiboshed relationships, made me leave comfortable jobs, lost me money. It has made me an outsider: I belong to no team, no institution, no community, no religion. As an itinerant I adapt to a plurality of situations, seamlessly, but adapting is not belonging.

I am sometimes lonely and am often lost; independence assumes a slipping out of the moorings supporting networks can give you and heading out to open sea, again and again. Self-navigation demands courage, a lot of energy and it can be comfortless.

My first heady draught of independence was taken very young when my mother died, and the world became colder, harder. Whether by necessity or choice, it has the same effect on the brain. Independence is hard-wired and now as much part of me as the colour of my eyes and the way I walk. As such, I couldn’t give it up even if I wanted to, and I am grateful for its gifts. I recognise the way I can live my life is a privilege of my time and circumstance, and I would wish independence for anyone who wishes for and needs it too.

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