I will leave the update post where I explain where I have been for the past couple of years for another day. Today, I feel compelled to express my thoughts about freedom. Not the flag waving, “God Bless America” kind of FREEDOM, although I am all about that too, but the personal freedom that we don’t even know we have or understand or appreciate or realize is gone until we give it up for another value that may or may not be more important than our personal freedom.
Actually, I am going to back up and remove the “we” from all the statements above. I am going to talk about the personal freedom that I didn’t even know I had or understood or appreciated or realized it was gone until I gave it up for another value that may or may not have been more important than my personal freedom.
For context, it is important to start with where I am now. I am living on a tiny sliver of land on the very edge of the North American continent and in between gigs (recently laid off) and trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.
My layoff occurred in March. I was graciously provided outplacement services by my former employer, which should be a good thing, but instead simply moved my daily focus from my job responsibilities to the job search “shoulds”.
“You should update your resume, it should only be 2 pages long, you shouldn’t mention how old you are, you should remove your college graduation year, you should go to networking events, you shouldn’t tell people you are only interested in a virtual office, you should work on your search 5-7 hours a day, you should keep a spreadsheet with your contact points”.
I could go on. I am not saying any of this isn’t valid or important, but it makes one huge assumption – that I want to replace my last job with another job just like it and that I “should” be taking specific actions to make it happen. To be honest, when I started the job search, I was under that assumption myself. But I have found myself resistant, feeling less than inspired by the job openings available and not sure what I want to do next.
So that brings me to this morning and why where I am living now is important. I’ve taken to walking 5 miles around the island every day; my loop takes me about 90 minutes. As I was walking, I was appreciating the beauty of the island, the general vibe of wellbeing that pervades the neighborhood and the fast energy exuded with the fresh tourist season. And a thought popped into my head.
No one, not a soul, (well, except for MapMyFitness) knows where I am, what I am doing or when I will be back. No one is looking for me or expecting anything from me, or telling me what to do next.
What freedom! What relief! What exhilaration! After 30 months of being highly scheduled, highly responsible and highly accountable, it feels amazing to realize that no one gives a damn where I am or what I am doing.
A MOMENT OF ABSOLUTE FREEDOM!!!
Now I realize for other people this might sound disorienting, scary or sad, but you have to understand that I am genetically programmed for independence. My mother often says that as a baby, I insisted on holding my own bottle to feed myself and I think that perfectly details my personality. I prefer to take care of myself and provide for myself. I don’t enjoy being told what to do, how to do it, or when to do it. I like to figure these things out for myself; even if it means I trip and fall sometimes, get a little lonely or feel confused about what to do next.
So what does this all have to do with personal freedom? What is the ultimate freedom? Is it physical freedom, the ability to move around this world as we choose? Is it mental freedom, the ability to think our own thoughts, make our own choices and create our own beliefs? Or is it emotional freedom, the capability to manage our own feelings, decide how we want to feel in each moment and choose how we want to respond to the world around us?
For me, it means paying really close attention to the thoughts and emotions I am experiencing and exploring how true they really are. Are these beliefs actually valid? Or have they been introduced via societal indoctrination, organizational expectations or social media click bait? Many times, I have found myself choosing to take actions (completely unsupervised) from a “should” perspective – I should get up early to start my day and be productive, I should make 20 calls before I do anything fun today, I should send out that email, I should…… fill in the blank.
It was that tiny glimmer of recognition that I can do whatever in the damn hell I want to do right now that felt like freedom and felt like fresh energy moving within me. It was realizing who I really am without all the protective mechanisms that keep me “safe” and “responsible” and sadly, unfulfilled.
I am not suggesting that everyone needs to go to the very edge of the country’s landmass to be reminded of their personal freedom, but if it is the only way to shake off the external voices and belief systems so pervasive today, I highly recommend it. Toes in the sand and an unfathomable ocean before me is as hopelessly optimistic and unfailingly free as I can BE. My hope for you today is to find one tiny space of personal freedom and appreciate the heck out of it and maybe find a little bit more tomorrow and build on that until you are feeling equally full of yourself and unapologetically FREE!