I’ve given it a lot of thought recently – living life on one’s own terms. I’m not positive I know what that means. In fact, I’m not sure when it starts exactly, living your life on one’s own terms. There are so many eddies and currents that flow through our existence, the very idea that a life belongs to yourself seems almost fantasy – at best – unless one chooses a bohemian lifestyle where the only care there is concerns the next meal. There’s something romantic about that existence, but even then, your life is not truly your own as you must depend on the kindness of others for your survival.

I suppose living life on one’s own terms carries with it a certain amount of responsibility, mostly to yourself, but on occasion someone else, especially if one chooses to get married. Then, at least in my now archaic point of view, I’ve chosen to add to my “own terms” the life of someone else and all that entails. Now, my life is not truly mine as there is that someone else to consider. I told my wife just before we were married some twenty-eight years ago that I needed a certain amount of independence, my space. Her response was, “I’m not your mother, do as you see fit,” and we’ve been married ever since. I guess if you’re going to share your life with someone, better that someone understand some of your life’s terms too, as you must theirs.

Maybe my own terms means choosing the direction of this slice of time I’m given. When we’re “little” we’re asked what we’d like to be when we “grow up”. A fascinating question, now that I think about it. We take that simple question for granted in this nation, much more than in others. The very idea that we have choices with our lives, that we have the ability to change the station we find ourselves in through being industrious or imaginative or simply through sheer determination and will is a gift most others throughout the world don’t have. A plethora of choices limited most often by self-imposed bars. Yes, I’m aware of people who don’t have the same opportunities as others, but that never stopped the truly inspired or motivated. How many stories of “success from nothing” grace the pages of story books, magazines, and celluloid. History is replete with rags to riches stories that we find inspiration in. Some don’t make it all the way out, many do, on their terms.

I wonder if there’s something else to the idea of “my own terms”. Maybe its a spiritual journey of self discovery. Does anyone ever really know themselves or have taken the time to think about who they truly are in this hustle-to-the-next-whistle world we’ve created? The greatest swordsman that ever lived, Miyamoto Musashi withdrew from his carved out life, spending the rest of his days in a cave contemplating, well, life and his role in it. He put that wisdom into a book called The Book of Five Rings, a compendium of his knowledge through self reflection. I don’t profess to be on the same planet as the great Musashi, but my journey is no less important to me, and maybe by contemplating it, I’d truly discover what my terms are. 

In the end, we are the sum of our choices…all of them…and that sum determines our terms, like them or not. Since none of us knows our end, our terms can change as we do. One who remains static becomes as a stagnant pond, dead and without life. We are not built to become stagnant so, as the saying goes, the only constant is change. For me, those are my terms. Changing, evolving, becoming something different than when I started this journey. I don’t know how it will end, but I do know I’ll be different. May you find your path and live on your terms, whatever they may be.