Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is “free” if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state.
I am a feistily independent person. I am not sure what my parents did to me as a child to make me so. Apparently childhood thumb suckers are more emotionally secure as they can self-sooth, so maybe it is because of that?
Growing up in North Devon, my mental freedom came through reading, my physical freedom came through learning to drive, my financial freedom came through having a part time job and my spiritual freedom came through travelling. My parents gave us the freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them, the freedom to find our way, with their support to fall back on.
On my Gap Year, my freedom came from travelling. I had saved up all of my money from my part time jobs to self-fund and go where I wanted, with who I wanted. I took for granted that my parents enabled me to be free to do so. They actively encouraged me to spread my wings. They gave me the travel bug at an early age, and the freedom to explore the world has continued throughout my childhood into my adulthood.
A memory from my teens is of my girlfriends and I wanting to go on a girls’ holiday to Greece for a fortnight. One of my friends had older, more conservative parents who were putting blockers in the way. I was wheeled in as the mature, reliable and persuasive friend to do a pitch to them about why she should be allowed to come. It worked and the 4 of us went. I was the responsible one ensuring that she enjoyed her freedom but stayed safe. The irony of the situation is our holiday was lovely and very innocent – we hired bikes, cycled every day, ate well, slept in, read lots and laughed all the time – we hardly drank and did not go clubbing. No-one got up to any mischief, even though we were away and we had the freedom to do so! We were being trusted and didn’t want to jeopardise our future freedom.
Going to University, my freedom came from moving away from home. Not that I was not free within my family unit, but I was craving a change of scene, some space and some distance. The freedom of choosing which course, which University, which accommodation was all mine. The freedom of changing my mind whilst travelling on my Gap Year and reapplying too was also my decision. I embraced the freedom of meeting new people, exploring a new place, and thinking about new ideas.
These experiences shaped my thinking about and my experience of freedom. I have always been free-spirited, free-thinking, free-moving. I have been free to make choices by myself, for myself. My freedom of speech is also important to me.
I feel at my freest when I am outside, when I can see space – be it air, sky, sea or sand. I am craving to be walking along a beach or standing on top of a mountain, for the sense of exhilaration that travelling and skiing gives me. But physical freedom is only one type of freedom.
I appreciate how lucky I am to have many liberties that my peers around the world do not have. I have taken my freedom to be myself, to do what I want, to say and think freely for granted, and I need to appreciate this freedom more.
So what is lock down, physical distancing and social isolation teaching us about freedom?
My thoughts are framed by prepositions and as I collate my thoughts I am going to try and reframe each one as a positive, an affirmation of how we are free rather than as a negative, a deficit of what we are restricted to do.
I have the Freedom to…
- turn the alarm clock off and wake up when I am ready.
- stay at home and reduce the time spent in my car, on the road.
- go make-up free, bra free and shoe free.
- eat when I am hungry.
- use the toilet when I need to go!
I have the Freedom of…
- spending time on what I want, when I want.
- thinking about my future.
- connecting with people via the comfort of my home.
I have Freedom from…
- responsibility as I no longer run a school.
- others relying on me, as I live alone and do not have children.
- demands being placed on me, as I am seeing out the end of my notice.
I have Freedom through…
- having a roof over my head.
- having food in my fridge.
- having a garden to go into when I need air.
I have Freedom by…
- being financially settled.
- reading lots.
- walking out of my door into the fields and the woods.
Whether you think of freedom as a bird, a butterfly, or a balloon – each has a sense of being free flowing but also of having perspective as they hover above us. The freedom of choice, the freedom of changing direction. Although in many ways we are physically confined right now, it is our choice how we interpret and process this.
During Lock Down, my mental freedom comes through reading, my physical freedom comes through walking, my financial freedom comes through spending less, my emotional freedom comes from talking openly and my spiritual freedom comes through reflecting. We are freer than we perhaps think we are during this time.