Throughout my life, I have taken up different causes in the name of freedom. I remember wanting to free my sister’s dolls from their nice, neat row on her dresser. I remember wanting to free our pet goldfish into the river so he could see more of the world than what our kitchen counter-offered.
As I grew, my causes grew with me. I remember wanting to free children from breadlines in Soviet Russia. I remember wanting to free people from their cardboard houses I stumbled upon in the hills above Puerto Vallarta.
Most recently, on a bus route outside Rome, I wanted to free young women from their life of prostitution as they stretched out as far as the eye could see, down a rather deserted country lane.
Travel has taught me that there are many different definitions of freedom that are largely shaped by our culture and experience. Visions I may have of someone else needing liberation from their place in life has more to do with my sense of freedom than their experience.
I have been out of my comfort zone in nearly twenty countries in the past year and a half and it has been a remarkable way to challenge my unknowingly ethnocentric views on many topics. I have met people in the USA who felt trapped and I have met people who grew up behind the Berlin Wall who felt free. A desire for freedom is a universal theme but what that means to each person is so rich in its diversity.
I love Webster’s following definition of freedom: “the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in choice or action.”
The freedom I have found on this journey is not freedom from responsibility. Freedom IS a responsibility because inherent in it is ownership of oneself and therefore one’s actions and footprint on the world.
By liberating myself, I have expanded my understanding of freedom from something outside of myself that needs protection, to something intrinsic that commands my participation. It is both frightening and comforting to internalize ownership of something that can never again be taken away or given.