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In October, I remember the country of my birth because of Nigeria’s independence day - Oct 1. This is a time when many reflect on political issues and the expectations of citizens, but it also reminded me of my personal ‘independence day’. As a young girl going to study thousands of miles away from my parents, I was free to do whatever I wanted. It was time to find out who I really was and what I really believed. As a parent now, I understand what a big decision it was for my parents to let me study abroad on my own from the age of 16, so I am grateful and glad that it all worked out.

Independence is not just about doing whatever we want, when we want to. It is also about responsibility. With freewill comes much responsibility. There was no one to make sure that I studied, chose good friends, wore decent clothes or went to church, so I had to make up my own mind whether those were things I actually wanted to do, even when no one seemed to be watching. There was no one to blame when I made stupid decisions. Even though my parents and teachers were there for support, it was really my life to live and the consequences of my decisions were all mine to deal with.

Whether we talk of countries, organisations or individuals, independence is a good thing when we realise the responsibility that comes with it. Many are still only dreaming of freedom from all sorts of constraints in life. Although, sometimes, the thing we see as lack of freedom is actually a blessing when we have the right attitude. I am referring to the boy who cannot wait to leave his parents’ house, the woman who resents having to consider her husband and children when making decisions, the apprentice who has to do things how the boss wants it or the businessman/professional who has to follow strict government policies to keep his license. The guidance, love, unity, support, wisdom, high standards and order maintained or received through these relationships are worth more than the chaos when everyone is allowed to do whatever they want, all the time.

For those of us who are actually enjoying freedom in whatever way today, the question now is, what are we doing with this independence? So many decisions to make in a world where generally ‘anything goes’. Is freewill really a gift or a test? What really guides our decisions and how much we care about the effect of our decisions on others? Is it possible to be free to lead but choose to serve? How do we choose who/what to follow or live by? As they say, if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. I realised that this year, I will have lived longer in the UK than I did in Nigeria. I try to learn from both cultures and let the exposure that life brings me help me to make better decisions and leave a good legacy. We should do our best wherever we find ourselves, and realise that there is more to life than what we wear, where we live or what jobs we do. It would be a shame to have missed out on the essence of life because we did not realise the responsibility that comes with freewill. What will you choose to do with yours today?

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