I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of testing the limits of self-sufficiency. In fact, one of my favorite books is Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It’s a true story about Christopher McCandless, a fresh college graduate who gave all his possessions to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska where he withdrew from society and wandered into the wild.
The book explores what possibly could have motivated him to take on such a challenge, and what might have happened in the four months that passed before he was found dead. Don’t worry, I’m not about to drop everything and start walking into the bush; but I do find it very interesting that humans are capable of that sort of behavior.
My family has always felt a deep connection to the outdoors. When I was young, my dad used to take my brother and I camping several times a year. On these trips, he taught us the importance of being able to take care of ourselves.
The great thing about camping is that it takes you back to the basics: food, shelter, water, and heat. Most of the projects that consume your time and energy have to do with one of those necessities.
The completion of a big project like gathering and chopping wood, building a great fire, setting up camp, or catching some fish to eat gives me a great satisfaction that is hard to match. It also gives me some comfort to know that I would have a good chance of surviving if I were ever stuck in the wild.
Survival at Home
While wilderness survival is a great skill to have, it’s more important to know how to survive by yourself in your own house! Most of us were never taught to live on our own.
Men are especially vulnerable. A lot of us lived extremely well under the comfortable care of our mothers until we gave the real world a shot.
Imagine the stereotypical bachelor pad: Two guys as roommates, pizza boxes on the coffee table, nothing on the walls, and nothing in the fridge except a case of beer and a tub of butter (ahh, the good-ole days). If you were lucky enough, you took your clothes to your mother on the weekends to get it washed and made up for a week’s worth of mal-nourishment.
Women aren’t completely in the clear. Believe it or not, women have weaknesses to! Usually in a relationship, there is one person who is more equipped than the other to do any given task such as doing the finances, fixing the car, organizing the closet, cutting the lawn, or decorating the house.
You see, one of the great things about relationships is that we make up for each other’s weaknesses. Hopefully, between two people, you cover all the basics for survival (If you can’t, that’s a whole different post!).
Often, people never learn to compensate for their weaknesses and therefore tend to look for partners to fill their void. If a man never learns to do his laundry, he constantly looks for women to do it for him. If a woman never learns to provide for herself financially, she hops from man to man in search of that support.
If you have never been single since the day you left the house (or never left the house in the first place), there is a good chance that you haven’t learned certain basics of self-sufficiency. If your partner (or your mother) has always made up for your weaknesses, you have never been forced to learn on your own.
What’s the Big Deal?
The first problem with being dependent on your partner is the chance that something happens to your relationship. If you have never looked at your household finances, you might be in a world of hurt if you ever found yourself alone. If you don’t know how to feed yourself or clean your house, you’ll be living pretty miserably if left alone.
Even more important than being able to survive an emergency is what happens to you psychologically when you become independent. You see, when you are dependent on someone else, you are letting them control you. You resent them when they don’t provide for you. You aren’t able to stand up for yourself because they hold power over you in certain areas. Since you are always taking, you don’t have the energy to give.
Unfortunately, most relationships are like this: two people deeply dependent on each other. Every day is a struggle to get their needs met. Any shortcomings result in resentment, anger, and frustration.
The Beauty of Independence
You’ll never be perfect at everything, but learning at least to be self-sufficient can give you one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself: independence. The highest form of human relationship is between two independent people.
When you no longer need anything from your partner, you can focus on giving. When you are no longer depending on them to come through for you, you can forgive them when they don’t. When you no longer need them to make you complete, you can appreciate them for who they are, flaws and all.
Self-sufficiency is so much more than being able to survive an emergency. While in this day and age, it is always a good idea to be able to cope with any situation, the real benefit is in your head. Independence breeds confidence, and allows you to be the best you can be!