“That’s what freedom is,” a woman on the radio said, “not needing to BE anything.” She was talking about identity, how as an African-American woman living in France she’d never really felt she fully belonged to any of the common identities or groups people associated her with.
I like her definition very much, because it seems to me people are much easier to get along with if they aren’t attached strongly to being perceived a certain way. It is freeing to feel secure in oneself without requiring other people’s perceptions to exactly line up with what you want them to be. In a sense, you are then free to “be” anything at any time – potentials remain open, your actions are not limited by your ideas about who you are. More than that, you are free to interact with others without fear of losing a sense of belonging and self-worth if they don’t put you in the right box.
I had just written about this topic in my journal when I heard the radio broadcast…
Freedom is knowing I don’t have to wait to be happy.
It’s spending my last dime and discovering I can still enjoy life.
It’s winning the lottery and finding I can still choose to be miserable.
It’s finding that the new job, new home, new car, new romance… doesn’t change anything, unless I change the story I tell myself.
And what is the freedom story?
It goes like this: regardless of what happens in my life, I am the one who chooses. I have two choices in every situation, no matter what: whether to alter my actions, and whether to alter my feelings. If all is well and harmonious, I don’t need to change anything. The more I choose to take responsibility for my choices and change whatever isn’t working, the less tough my situations become and the greater my sense of peace and joy.
And why are we here if not to do our best to create a life filled with joy?