As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. day and how he fought for the equality of African Americans and essentially our freedom, I started thinking about what makes me feel free. I think a lot of us would like more freedom and flexibility in our lives.
For many, when thinking of what freedom looks like, what often comes to mind is material wealth that unleashes us from the 9 to 5 and allows us to become the sole possessor of our time and how we spend it. But many of us won’t have that luxury as a constant. So how do we create our own personal freedom in lieu of our most indulgent fantasies, and in a society that largely wants us to feel bound? How do we create moments of freedom in our lives? I have some simple pleasures that help me feel more liberated.
I just saw Proud Mary with Taraji P. Henson and it was great. One thing I remember is the young boy in the film who finds respite in his special place near the water that he says provides escapism. I have special places too like the museum that make me feel as if I’m escaping life. When I’m walking around in that beautiful space looking at art, or out onto the sprawling manicured grounds of the park, momentarily, I can tuck away my problems and disconnect. It feels freeing and therapeutic. I also feel free when I think of the fact that I have a car.
Owning a car probably isn’t a big deal for most car owners, but for years I didn’t have one. Living in New York it wasn’t a necessity. But when I moved to St. Louis and was taking my life in my hands on the inaccessible and dangerous public transit here, I felt like I was tethered to the metro transit schedule. I had to time and plan everything. I couldn’t just get up and leave. I did that to some extent in New York but the availability of public transportation there was much more frequent. If I missed a bus or train another was coming in a few minutes. But in St. Louis some bus lines only run every half hour or every hour. Depending on where I needed to go I had to be very meticulous about keeping track of the schedule. There were times when I was plotting my route to make my connections that I felt like I was solving complex mathematical equations.
But having a car means that for the most part I can go where I want when I want. I’m no longer at the mercy of public transit or other people and their schedules. Writing is also something that helps me feel liberated.
When I write I feel empowered and free because I’m expressing myself in my authentic voice in my own space. I can create what I want; my own narrative, my own stories, my own alternative realities. Unlike in my freelance life I’m not being told how to write, what to write, how to think, or how to tell the story. I can be me. And being yourself is one of the greatest feelings of freedom there is.
On the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. day as we think about our history with civil rights and how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go, maybe we can also use it as a day to contemplate how we can create more of our own personal freedom.
What makes you feel free?