BY: LAURA ROJAS
Marianne Cantwell begins her book with a comparison between humans and cattle. Standing nose-to-armpit with five hundred other commuters, she can’t help but remember graphic images of animals in factory farms; thousands crammed together in tiny cages before being transported to a sweaty slaughterhouse somewhere else. In this moment, she realizes she wants to be a “free-range human,” similar to the happy, dancing animals in cheese commercials—carefree and able to roam the way it was intended. So she did. And she wrote a book about it.
Free Range Humans is Cantwell’s major project, aiming to show people the light and freedom that comes with doing what you love on your own terms—whatever they may be. Through the self-help book and a blog of the same name, she coaches prospective free-rangers on how to ditch the drudgery of the nine-to-five and live life on their own personal terms while still making a living.
It’s about time someone took this matter more seriously. I’ve noticed that, as much as everyone talks of wanting to leave their lifeless job for more meaningful work, it is often left at that—a hopeless sigh escaping their lips. Marianne makes a point of telling readers that her book isn’t a “get-rich-quick” one, because there is no such thing as a catapult to success. The determination to put one foot in front, regardless of blisters, is the only thing that will.
Cantwell describes a free-range human as someone who has created life by their own design, someone who gets paid to do what they love, someone who can “live their life every day and not just on weekends.”
Her mantra follows the idea that living a sculpted life through a conventional office job is not the right way to do things, unless you seriously feel fulfilled by that sort of thing. Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to work while being location-independent, something that has become Cantwell’s main mandate. For example, teaching a course on a topic of interest to people who are also interested in it can be done online from anywhere in the world. Cantwell does this herself; in an interview with The Guardian, she describes her itinerary for the next month, detailing stops in Bali, Cape Town, and Mauritius, all while working through her own business. It’s electrifying as anything.
But as appealing as it all sounds, it’s inevitable to ask how realistic the whole thing is. She encourages people to leave their boring jobs, to take huge, all-encompassing risks and start from scratch. But the realistic nature of things is exactly what Marianne is trying to dispute. For some reason, we’ve internalized certain things as realistic and categorized others, such as dreaming bigger than a crappy cubicle office job, as anything but.
Cantwell sums up this strange internalization in the first chapter, How to Be a Free Range Human, when she speaks of a co-worker who believed that a nine-to-five job was the only way to do things:
“What? Reality? This man thought that this life—in an artificially built, over-air conditioned building in the middle of a screaming roundabout, hardly seeing daylight three months of the year, with the only hope of escape being winning the lottery—he thought that was reality.”
Everything goes back to the blessing of high passion and the importance of a powerful drive. As someone still working her way through university, I can’t emphasize enough how much thought I put into the phrase, “where will I be four years from now?” Although the culturally engrained (and imagined) hazards of “real world” living can be overwhelming, Marianne points out just how unnecessary all that worrying really is. Conventional social norms, like the apparent unquestionable fact that you “have to go to post-secondary,” were established by people just like you. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.
So that’s why being a free range human isn’t just for the lucky ones. Being free range is for those with self-motivation, and Cantwell truly believes that could be anyone. Her idea revolves around the fact that you can make a living doing pretty much whatever you want.
As she puts it, “This growing tribe is united in taking a unique approach to problem solving and income creation that gives you the freedom to get paid to do whatever you darn well please and create an amazing lifestyle in the process.”
Not only is being location-independent both empowering and freeing, but it also does even larger significance. The ideas you are exposed to being a working-world traveller are likely to spur an orgasm of usable creativity. Being able to experience the world organically will make you a better human being. It will feed your brain, your heart, and ultimately your pocket, and that’s really freedom in all fields.
Cantwell tastefully includes a quote by Steve Jobs at the beginning of her book, and it manages to sum up her entire project in just a few sentences:
“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things… The minute that you understand that you can poke life, you can mould it… once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”