A declaration of independence can be a scary thing. It's liberating, by definition, but extricating oneself from a situation is only the first step. Once liberated, you have to figure out where you want to go next.
I issued my own declaration of independence around this time last year. My signature, like John Hancock's, was the most prominent, which made sense since I was the one doing the declaring. The remaining signatures were boilerplate, but necessary -- my former employer signing off, the pension program signing on -- and while a few signatures I had hoped to gain were conspicuously missing, I was optimistic that they'd sign on in time.
Though I can't pretend to understand how the colonists were feeling more than two centuries ago, I would guess that their new freedom was not only exciting, but daunting as well -- rather like standing on the edge of a precipice, admiring the view that is just coming into focus, but afraid that the next step you take might be your last.
At least that was how I felt.
And since I'm standing here (or sitting here typing this) a year after my declaration, it's obvious that I haven't gone over the edge. As the scenery ahead of me came into focus, so did a bridge from the precipice to the road that lay ahead. The road was smoother than I had expected, with plenty of opportunities to turn off and explore new terrain. And though none of the paths led back the way I had come, all connected in some way to the main thoroughfare.
Though my essential freedoms were less monumental from a national perspective, they had enormous repercussions for me, changing my way of life in ways that allowed me to pursue dreams and honor the things that were important to me. And while I know I won't be around to take stock in 237 years, the view after a year looks pretty spectacular.
Happy Birthday, America. And Happy Independence Year to me.