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Jan. 3, 2022

How Much Freedom Do You Have In Your Life?

Money, money, money. 

Sometimes, it seems like that's all people want. How can I make more money? Why don't I get paid me more money? How have I worked this hard, for so long, and still not have any money? Hopefully you aren't in the third camp. 

But rarely do we stop to think about why we want more money. Yeah, yeah. You want a better house. You'd love a nicer car. You really want to buy that pet tarantula. (That last one was nudged towards my son. I really want him to read this blog). But is that really, truly why you want more money?

I don't think it is. I think you want freedom. 

Do you know what day the majority of Americans sited as their most stressful? That would be Monday. What time? Right before the typical work day begins. 

For me, it was a Sunday when it finally hit me that I was overworked, underpaid and in a total lack of time and money freedom. And it wasn't just any Sunday. It was Super Bowl Sunday. And it wasn't just any Super Bowl for me. It was the day that I reached what I considered my career zenith. 

As a struggling photographer for more than six years, I had finally made it. I was standing with Giants. Well, not the New York Giants. They stunk that year. But I was standing with Patriots and Rams. It doesn't have the same ring to it but you get the picture. After years of rejection, low pay, and being ignored, I had worked my way onto the turf as a photographer for the biggest game in the world. I dive deeper into this in todays episode of The Total Life Freedom Podcast. 

Not far from me, former Beatle Paul McCartney lit up the pre game show with his new song, "Freedom". As I stood there, ready for my dream assignment, I knew that it was going to be very short and temporary. I didn't have that freedom that the cute Beatle was singing about in my career. I felt like a career prisoner who was let out into the beautiful sunshine for a few hours. 

Yet even though this was night was my dream, I was living a version of a career nightmare. My quest to be a professional photographer took me on a path that I didn't search for- a full time job at a newspaper. My dream was to be a free-wheelin', risk takin' freelance photographer with few strings and attachments. But when I went back to school at Ohio University for journalism, I veered off path while I watched everyone searching for- and receiving- secure, full time positions at newspapers and magazines. 

It was only a few months in when I realized that I no longer controlled my time. I was one paycheck in when I recognized that I now had very limited financial options. While everyone was excited to have a job, I felt like trapped like a caged animal. I had traded my freedom for security. 

The one saving grace was photographing sports. That was my freedom. I was out of the office. There were no office politics, no boring headshots, no reporter calling me 'their photographer'. Certain people made it such a habit that I made sure I beat them to it and called them 'my reporter'. There is a funny story about the Rolling Stones. Lead singer Mick Jagger had a little too much to drink one evening and, in a moment of arrogance, called the late Charlie Watts 'his drummer'. Watts turned knocked Jagger into the wall with a punch to the face. 

"I'm not your drummer," Watts declared as Jagger wiped blood from his mouth in stunned silence. " You are my singer".

But I digress. I got little angry writing that. But sports was my savior. My freedom. My pass to do the worked I loved, with no boss in my ear and the ability to eat unlimited, free, press room hot dogs. 

But when the Super Bowl was over, this prince turned back into a pumpkin. We left New Orleans, went back home to Indiana and the office, and handed my freedom back like a the good little follower that I had become. Back to other people telling me what to do, where to go and how much I could earn.

I looked at our bank account when we got home. It was as empty as the Rams felt after that game. I knew I needed more money. But not for the house. Not for the car. Not even for the tarantula. 

But for my freedom.