What price freedom?

Change is not necessarily a bad thing, either on a personal or a professional level, as long as it is brought about by one’s own free will rather than imposition or forces beyond your control.

As I am writing, our world, my world, is once more in turmoil, individuals triggering explosive devices or driving vehicles into crowds all over Europe almost on a daily basis, fanning the flames of rebellion against an increasingly destabilised political establishment for good or for worse.

At the same time, unusually high temperatures across the continent, human negligence and/or error, as well as so-called ‘acts of God’ have seen fires of a different kind claim an unprecedented number of lives both in Britain and Portugal.

It is against this background that we in the Algarve and its hundreds of thousands of visitors are approaching one of the busiest holiday seasons for many years.

Far be it from me to suggest a cure-all for the world’s ills. I tried that during my late teens and early twenties: CND, Peace Umbrella, animal rights, you name it, without much success.

So let us look at what I call ‘personal freedoms’ instead…

Instead of attempting to change everyone, we can bring about certain changes in ourselves and thereby change everything.

Life is full of choices, opportunities and setbacks. The secret lies in being brave enough to actually make those changes, recognise and take advantage of those windows of opportunity and to face and overcome the setbacks rather than meekly accept what we sometimes lamely term ‘fate’.

Before we attempt to stand up and fight for other causes, we need to stand up and fight for our own.

I may be preaching to the converted in terms of the Resident readership as most of you have already made the choice of leaving your humdrum lives behind, living the dream in the sun instead.

I made that choice more by chance than design almost 20 years ago and have not looked back since. We need to prioritise our all-too-short-and-busy lives and decide what actually makes us happy – and unhappy – now, rather than at some point in the future.

For some, it may well be making lots of money and affording the so-called luxuries of life. I used to be addicted to that particular path to such an extent that money no longer became a means to an end.

As my bank balance was growing, I worked every waking hour, never had time off, never took holidays while trying and failing to maintain a string of costly and ultimately meaningless relationships – books remained unread, music unheard, the colour bled out of my soul.

Money is a necessary evil, in moderation, not the root of it, which provides certain material comforts in addition to putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. But it cannot buy lasting happiness and health or compensate for the feeling of freedom that washes over me every morning gazing at the ocean instead of fighting for standing room on the tube wet morning in, cold morning out as I did in a past life.

If you are unhappy or dissatisfied, you need to turn inwards and very selfishly identify exactly why you feel that way. Some people tell themselves ‘to get over it’ or seek escape in drugs or alcohol and soldier on the next day only to face despair over and over again. The alternative is to make that ‘next day’ different.

I am not saying it is easy to uproot your life, or to cause hurt and distress to those close to you by the decisions you are about to make, but it will ultimately prove worth it.

Dreaming is allowed but unfortunately for most that dream will always remain a dream unless we take practical steps to turn that dream into reality.

To achieve that, we need to leave our social, financial and environmental safety net behind and risk starting over. And before I hear you say ‘that is easy for you to say’, it is not…was not.

I compensated for my previously mentioned lifestyle by slipping into three years’ worth of Berlin nightlife hedonism and debauchery before plotting my escape. I arrived here with four bags of worldly belongings and a few pennies in my pocket to start a new life.

Later I met a woman I can love without her having to be 20 years younger than me and who loves me for who I am without my American Express card, and until now, I have looked forward to doing the work I do every single day. The latter may change in the near future due to circumstances absolutely beyond my control, but at least I have done everything in my power to hold on to my dream, my reality – and should I fail, that closing door will only lead to another one opening.

In conclusion, do not compromise on your happiness. If you are ‘trapped’ in a loveless relationship, end it. Never give up on the quest for your soulmate; he or she is out there and finding that person will be so rewarding even if you get involved in a few wreckages on the way.

If you are stuck in a dead end job or even one which consumes you to such an extent that there remains little or no time for anything else, get out. I have learned, albeit painfully, that no one is indispensable and have become a firm believer in working to live, not living to work.

Do not cling on to a past where the lowest common denominator set the bar, allowing you a degree of satisfaction but only in terms of your equally mediocre contemporaries.

Do not be afraid of taking chances, seizing opportunities if and when they arise. What have you got to lose? The future lies just beyond that palm-fringed horizon, make it yours.

My Message
“In my revolution there will be no guns,
No Che Guevaras;
No impossible would-be dictators screaming in outrage
To the underdogs with promises of wrongs to be righted.
There will be no A, H, or N bombs,
Nor will there be generals and armies.
There will be no televised accounts.
Mine will not be a bloody revolution,
Its violence will remain silent, though not still,
Its violence will be more masochistic.
You will learn to attack, and even
Destroy yourselves:
At which point
Your fight begins.”

Enjoy the summer, enjoy the beach and live the life you choose:
Carpe diem!

By Skip Bandele
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Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 20 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.