Freedom: part 1

Photo by  Srna Dabikj

Photo by Srna Dabikj

When I sat down to write this post, I originally titled it “Ghosting,” with the intention of addressing the fact that I have been known to disappear. I sometimes go days without responding to texts, calls, or emails. I often duck out of parties without saying anything to anyone. The people closest to me sigh and/or roll their eyes, or sometimes even laugh about my tendency to sneak under the radar from time to time. I'm generally fairly upfront about the fact that this is a thing that I do, so mercifully, no one has ever confronted me about it (though they might be well within their rights to do so). Given that I haven’t posted a single thing that I've written or filmed in two months, you may have noticed that this time of year, my habit of radio silence is particularly strong. To spite how I’m setting it up, this post isn’t an apology, and it actually isn’t even really about the fact that sometimes I don’t like to talk to people or make my departures a big deal.

This is about freedom.

Over these last two months, I have spent an incredible amount of time on the road thinking about freedom. It’s been a massive wooden crate sitting quietly in the back of my mind that I’ve been dancing around for quite a while. I’ve been meditating on top of it, hitting it with sticks, spray-painting graffiti on its sides, and generally staring at and all around it without ever really interacting with the idea in a meaningful way. Since I’ve more or less refused to address the idea of freedom directly, the universe cleverly tricked me into picking up a crowbar and, thinking that I was just going to write about my vaguely unacceptable social habits, made me pry open the crate labeled FREEDOM in big red stenciled letters (a label that I conveniently missed, given my aforementioned mental graffiti project). 

So here we are.

I have spent the last two months proudly declaring myself a tumbleweed, rarely sleeping in one place more than two nights in a row. When asked where I’m going or where I’ve been, I answer that my travels are influenced only by the wind. I answer to no one but myself, the earth, and the sky. I go where the breeze blows me, where the sun shines or the rain falls, wherever I can find places to live and give and receive love. I walk out the door and listen for the music and that’s the direction I turn. I laugh freely about living out of my little red wagon (my sweet lil' Outback named Tilly - short for Matilda). I run, I dance, I sing, I make mischief and art, and I regret nothing. I keep saying that I want to be a restless wayward wanderer, a wild woman howling at the moon, fiery-eyed and full-hearted. I cackle into the storm and boast of the lightning in my soul, fearless and sleepless but never tired. My bare feet are filthy, my long brown hair is tangled and lit up blond from windows down and sun bright, and my fingers are calloused from climbing and playing. I wear a leather cord tied around one wrist (an old shoestring) and wooden beads wrapped around the other (a mala from my sangha). Perhaps most importantly, I smear the evidence of all of this all over my social media - posting words and images to back up my claims. And you know what? People f*cking love it. You’re eating this stuff up. I’m defying the 8-5, rejecting the norm, the expectation, and everybody loves a free-spirited rebel.

This is not an apologetic declaration that everything in that last paragraph is bullsh*t. It isn’t. All of that is real and true for me. It’s who I’ve wanted to be for a long time and it’s who I’m becoming, and I’m excited about that. I’m proud of that. I’m living in accordance with my beliefs. I’m maintaining my integrity. I’m living exactly how I want to within my means, I’m chasing my dreams, and that feels really good. But there’s a shadow side to this thing that I’ve been calling freedom.

In the late summer of 2013 on a plane to Shanghai, I read Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild for the first time, and in one of the letters written by Chris McCandless I found a paragraph that radically influenced the way I view my life:

“I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I really think you should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and incredible beauty.”

Each day, a new and different sun. I’ve been telling myself for the last two months that I’ve been running joyfully toward an endlessly changing horizon. When I cracked open the big FREEDOM crate in the back of my mind, I had to acknowledge the shadow side of that truth: I’m not just running toward - I’m also running away.

Today, my pursuit of freedom is inextricably linked with an attempt at escape. I know that they aren’t the same thing. I can feel that there’s a difference, and I can feel myself slowly pulling them apart. I imagine that from the outside, they look the same, but I’d be lying to tell you that it’s just one and not the other.

Freedom: part I is just the beginning. As always, there is so much more to come.