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by Joan Bramsch

We often hear the term, "Growing free." These two words evoke a tranquil scene: a youngster skipping through meadows, wondering at the beauty of a wild flower and laughing at the wind and the clouds. The child is never threatened by exterior forces; he lives safe and protected within his childhood. Wishing only to be happy and free, the child is permitted to pick and choose his activities.

Most often, the child, because he is a child, wants only the privileges -- making the noise, scattering the toys, demanding unequal time. He cares little for the responsibility of growing -- making loud noises only out-of-doors, picking up the scattered toys, sharing the space and time around him. Surely, children must learn that responsibility is the twin of privilege. Without the first, the second expands to undesired proportions; thus, if left untempered, we see irresponsible adolescents and adults.

Today, many adolescents, soon after the onset of puberty, find themselves searching for a meaningful relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Some take seriously their responsibility to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy, while others become unwed parents or victims of teenage marriage. Both groups, the responsibly sexually active young people and the "it won't happen to me just this once" adolescent are often irresponsible to their duties in the home -- unkempt bedrooms, refusal to help gladly or altogether with family chores. In short, seeing the job but not doing it. Again, we hear their demand for mature privileges and their blindness to everyday responsibilities.

Most times, these young people have been taught to enjoy the good feelings of a job well done; however, during this period of their lives they live in a world of self-centered egotism, unable to fulfill their duties as a member of a family. Usually, after the seventeenth year, the egomaniac shrinks to manageable proportions and, once again, the young person can become a responsible family member.

The young people who have never been schooled in responsible behavior and the others who grow to adulthood still caught in the groove of inward adolescence become the misfits of society. They continually change jobs because they still believe there is a perfect vocation for them (read: little work, no responsibilities). Or, like many indoctrinated by the welfare system, they believe if they are looking, if they are standing on line, they are, in fact, doing something constructive for their owe well-being. Many times they leave family and friends in search of Utopia and, often, they become embittered old people who believe that they were never given the opportunity for happiness. Opportunity was always there, right in front of their eyes, only they looked but did not see.

Now this is not to say that searching for one's place in this world is not good. The searching can be done responsibly. But one must remember that happiness can never be found in the outward -- happiness is found within. Each of us has a responsibility to be happy. It certainly isn't an easy task. Every day cannot be joyous. We must have some pain or else we can never fully savor the delicious taste of success.

It is a privilege and a responsibility to live each day to the best of our ability. No one owes us happiness. No one can make us happy but the Power to Be and the ability to be happy that lies within. We each have the responsibility for our own welfare and happiness. It's the only way to grow "free" in society.

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