When I was younger, I wanted the freedom to do things. I longed for the freedom to do what I wanted. I had the freedom to be with whom I wanted to be with. I had the freedom to go and move across the country. I had the freedom to do. I was so intent on being free to be. Free to do. Free to move. Free to love. Free to exist. Free to cry. Free to…freedom was an action. I had the freedom to go to any college I wanted. So I did. I had the freedom to date whom I wanted. So I dated. I was free to meet them whenever. I was free. I was free to have incredible sex with a person who was claimed. I had the freedom to move from one coast to another, and I did.
All these choices would seem, that I had real options. That I had the real freedom to…but did I? I was still operating within norms and guidelines to make those around me happy. As far as college, sure I could go where I wanted but I wasn’t free from my mother’s admonition of acceptable majors. I was free to date whomever I wanted, but I wasn’t free from acquiescing to all of their demands. I was free to meet them whenever as long as it was a time decided by them. I was free to date a man who had to remain a secret, but not free from splintering a burgeoning friendship with choosing him. I wasn’t free from anything: work, expectations, security, and most of all, I was not free from the roles I willingly played.
I played those roles without question because I thought I was free to play them. And I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t feeling free.
What I really needed to examine though was if I was free to or free from.
On one side of 40, I dove head first into being free to. But peace and happiness never followed because I wasn’t free from. On the other side of 40, I’m trying to break free from. Free from expectations of a 12-year relationship that has netted me nothing. Free from the rules that dictate what a “good” woman is and isn’t. Free from guilt. Free from other’s expectations. Free from not doing the things my heart desires. Free from the need for validation. Even writing some of these experiences down to share, is causing some concern because I am not free from fear.
When I was free to, there were many things that kept me from going too far. There were boundaries set by society, family, partners, and even unrealistic boundaries I internalized as concrete. They could not be altered. Some boundaries are made to be bulldozed through and razed. And those boundaries, set by others, are what I want freedom from. I am trying. I am learning to not let fear keep me operating in boundaries that do not serve me. I am learning to confront my fear. There must be peace on the other side of freedom from. Freedom from the obligations that weigh me down like weights.
The truth of the matter though, is that free to and free from need each other to work.
You cannot be truly free to if you don’t have freedom from. When you have freedom from, you are then free to. If I had been free from all the misogyny and patriarchal standards of femininity, I would have felt free to walk away from relationships that only served my partners. If I had been free from disappointing people, I would have been free to make the choices I wanted to make. If I had been free from roles designed for me that I had no say in, I would have much more of the joy that has lessened in my life.
The good thing about being on the other side of 40 is that I know and understand this now. I am working to be free from fear as I post my writing. I am working to be free from a shaking voice as I advocate for myself to take up space.
I am moving toward freedom from so I can be free to.