This 4th of July, I along with my friends and family will be sitting on the lawn, eating barbecue, and watching a dazzling home-made light show. However, this year may prove to be a little more thought-provoking for me.

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Independence Day means honoring our right to freedom and taking responsibility for what we say and do.

Independence Day is a holiday designed for us to give thanks to our country and those who made it the wonderful place it is today. We as Americans have many rights that those in other countries don’t have the luxury of. And, despite recent decision making in our nation making us a bit more politically-divided than usual, I believe that we are proud to be in a country that gives it citizens freedom of speech and marriage, along with other rights.

This year, I’m enjoying the traditional values that the holiday brings, along with some new ones.

This is the first year that I have a home to myself. I have no bed time, no house rules, and a car to use at my leisure. I pay the rent, the car payment, and the SMUD bill. At the age of 19, I am reaping the benefits–as well as the disadvantages–of being on my own.

This staggering responsibility is a lot to take on, but I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that it has given me.

In my opinion, the qualifications that go along with being independent don’t stop with your name on a lease. Being independent also takes a certain maturity. You have to be able to resist the peer pressure that having a house to yourself brings. You want those around you to see you as a responsible young adult rather than a party-thrower. Keeping everything balanced and in check is a lot of hard work, requiring keeping on top of bills and occasionally asking for extra hours at work.

So, this Independence Day, I am not only celebrating the freedom of our country, but the new freedom that, with a lot of hard work, I have given myself.