Today, family and friends gather together with sticky, watermelon fingers waving sparklers and flags to celebrate America’s independence. We read about freedom, rejoice in the notion of freedom, teach, advocate, and hope for freedom, but what do we mean by this word?
What does true freedom look like? Does it look like a voter’s ballot? Is it seen in being able to buy anything we want? Freedom means many things to many people. For me, personal freedom is really about being emotionally and intellectually free—free from limiting fears, free from guilt, free from other people’s agendas. It is the feeling of not being constrained in imagination, feelings, hopes, ambition, lifestyle and conversation.
On my run this morning, I had plenty of thoughts on this two-syllable word, what it really means, what it looks like in my life, and how such a privilege is taken for granted or abused.
Freedom is a funny thing; it’s interesting to see what people prioritize in their lives.
Freedom, by definition, means the power or right to act, speak, and think as one wants without restraint or hindrance. While I can’t disagree with the fundamental meaning, it’s perplexing to think about how people use this amazing power they have been given.
People often spew out, “It’s my right! I have freedom of speech!” as an excuse for all of their doings, but really, is what you’re doing productive? What are you really gaining from your actions?
You are reading this post. This means you have access to a computer and the Internet. In fact, you may be reading it from your smart phone, allowing you the luxury of mobile communication. That is amazing. I went on a run today. I have two legs that can carry me. I wake up every morning and can decide what I want to do with my day, what I want to wear, who I want to talk to, and what I want to say and think.
Many people don’t have that choice. Sure, hate speech is legal, and you have the freedom to say “I hate ____ people,” or “_____ is stupid,” and that is your “right” as a human being in a land of so-called freedom, but is that the most productive way you can think of using such an amazing tool? You’re capable of forming insults and have the capability to hurt others, but imagine a world without purposeful harm.
I wake up and I fight for animal rights every day simply by eating a vegan diet. I wake up and fight body-shaming every time I look in the mirror and challenge my negative thoughts. I don’t have to feel bad for eating a cupcake because I have the power to free myself from guilt. I am limitless. I can be free of all fears if I choose to face them. I wake up and choose to live compassionately and optimistically because I CAN. Because I am able. That is making a difference. That is using my power for good.
I don’t have to be a radical activist to make change. I don’t have to scream and holler my beliefs in the faces of others. I don’t have to use hate speech and violence to prove my point. All I have to do is wake up and be me. A quiet girl with a loud voice. A small girl who can make a big difference.
I’d like to believe that I possess heroic traits. I broke free of a nasty disease and now, I help other people find their liberty. My voice was stolen from me, so I now use my words to give a voice to the voiceless. Because I have power, I am empowered.
Think about your life. Distinguish between what it means for you to be free from something and to be free to do or be something. “Freedom from” and “freedom to” are two sides of the same coin.
“Because I have freedom from _____, I have the freedom to _______.”
“Because I have freedom to _____, I am able to _______.”
What do these sentences look like in your life?
Have a safe and fun 4th of July, American friends. While you watch the sky light up in a spectacular show tonight, think about all of the things you’ve done to reach this moment in your life. Think about all the ways that you’ve used your power of freedom to push past your limits.
If you are having difficulty, change your focus. Think about what you can do right now to hone your personal freedom, and revel in it.
Above all, stay grateful, you firecracker of a human being.