Once, I had a close friend who told me that she didn’t owe the world anything. That she didn’t owe her father anything because she didn’t ask to be born. She didn’t owe her friends, her mother, her ex, her lovers anything. She never gave a reason to me though I asked. All she said was that she was so caught up believing that she had some debt to repay that it was giving her anxiety, so she thought long and hard and came to that realization.
I tried to understand but I just couldn’t seem to agree. I thought of her perspective, a teenager who had been enduring things beyond her on the best days. One day her opinion may change, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently.
I’ve come head to head with many people who hold this same belief. They owe no explanation, no trust, no love or faith to anyone living. Their lives are their own and they are in complete control of them, they tell me.
Yet they come to me and other friends regularly telling of ways that they can’t seem to get a handle on the world they are living in. That it is all so complicated and so hard to understand. That so many things are always happening that it seems like they can’t keep their heads above water. That they lose purpose.
Another friend once asked me how I can get out of bed every day and go about my life. I lived at home for a long time, I worked a “dead end” job and my books weren’t selling. My YouTube channel was full with a cool 8 subscribers and my Twitter feed was a ghost town of advertisements and cries for book sales.
Why do I get out of bed every morning, you ask?
Because I have a debt to repay.
My mother and father didn’t consult me when it came to bringing me into this world. They didn’t prepare me for broken A/C units or credit card debt. They didn’t explain at first that life would swing a lot harder than any bully I had met in high school. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to be here, yet here I am.
I owe my parents everything.
In a universe that knows not who I am, a cosmic mosh pit that doesn’t know me from Adam, how can I get up every day knowing life is meaningless?
Because it isn’t.
Like many things in my life, I have held the philosophy that everything comes down to me. I create the world I am living in. If I hate the people I work with, it will be hell going to work every day. If I disrespect my parents, I won’t have a safety net when I need it. If I crush the dreams of my friends in the pursuit of mine, I will live in a golden castle atop a lonely country hillside.
What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t put this blameless mentality into our heads. This idea that we don’t owe the world anything makes our hearts hard. Don’t you think we have hardened our hearts enough? With the dichotomy in politics and the strained ideals of the everyday person that lives today, don’t you think it would be best if we were to take a slow breath and think to ourselves…
“What can I do to make this world better, safer, nicer, happier?”
Get away from the concept that everything is a debt to be repaid. It isn’t. On one hand you can say that you don’t owe anyone anything, on the other I’d say you owe your loved ones in the least, everything you have.
Each word I write, even the vulgarity, I owe to my mother for raising me to be talented.
Every nut and bolt I adjust in the engine of my truck I owe to my father for teaching me how to repair things.
Every burst of creativity is owed to my parents and my friends for being the fire beneath my feet that keeps me moving forward.
So, to answer the question, I get out of bed every morning because I have a tremendous debt to repay.
Each breath I take should be a labor of love and gratitude that even though I didn’t ask to be at this party, I was still invited and welcomed. I have found a nest with many people who love and appreciate me and I have found a purpose. I have created this nest for myself through my own hard work and my own dedication, but more than that I have created is because one day I know that someone will need my help. My wife, my child, my friends, it could be anyone, anywhere, for anything.
I don’t owe that person a damned thing, but I will give them whatever I can to help them along their way. They will owe me nothing in return, not because I don’t want debts repaid or favors returned, but because my life is going to be too short to try to keep a tally of all the things I’ve done or will do in it.
You may think that you owe no one anything, but you should do well to remember that no one owes you a thing either.
Not the parents who gave you clothing and shelter and food.
Not the teachers who tried their damnedest to educate you.
Not the employers who provide you with paychecks so you can feed your own family.
Not the countless people you cross day to day who don’t pillage your home or vehicle so that they can get ahead.
Life is not about accruing and paying off debt.
It is about doing things for one another, in kindness, without being asked and without expecting things in return, as so many people have done for you and I, we should do for the rest of them.
I hope that you forgive a debt today. I certainly know that I am.
After all, no one owes me anything.