You’re like me, I’m like you. We are humans. It’s not our fault that we are afraid. Fear is one of the emotions that can only be experienced, not easily explained or demonstrated. You already know what fear feels like. You’ve experienced this before. Yet you are told not to fear anything, to be free and enjoy life, that your freedom is in your own hands. You have been given a myriad of definitions of what freedom is: independence, no constraints, the ability to assert and exercise your rights. But do you know what true freedom is? It is the opposite of fear: the fear of what other people will think or say, the fear that if you show people the real you, they won’t like you, that they might judge or condemn you and your opinions.
You can never bring yourself to dance in public, fearing that people will point and laugh. In class, you can’t voice your opinions for fear of being thought stupid. Even asking for an extra packet of syrup from the waitress seems daunting for the fear that you might be thought greedy. You always try to act “normal” and composed. You know you can be true to yourself, but instead you make yourself ordinary. You live a half-life, and although you know you are missing out on something, you don’t know what it is you’re missing. Incapacitated by the fear that if you ever voice your opinion, you’d be mocked and rejected, so you keep quiet. Quietly waiting for that mysterious warden that will set you free. Your fear is preventing you from reaching your full potential. It is hindering you from “living,” but you hardly realize it.
You always try to please people. You trap yourself trying to match the metrical gauge of the status quo. You swerve away from what you really want to do to what you think is normal. Why? You say this is reality, this is how real people act. Living in pretense? When you wake up in the morning, you get the urge to do whatever you want; as soon as you step outside the house, you become an actor. There’s no other real freedom anywhere, but you were told you could acquire it with money. You work for money and buy more chains. You make friends and draw close to your family, but freedom still seems so elusive.
All of this leads me to ask one of my favorite questions: What would we do if we weren’t afraid? Maybe we wouldn’t hold back. Maybe we wouldn’t hinder ourselves. We wouldn’t hesitate. We wouldn’t feign interest in things that clearly don’t interest us. We wouldn’t be so apprehensive about what others might think of us. We would be ourselves.
That’s freedom. That’s true freedom.
Freedom is standing up for yourself and worrying less about offending people or losing friends. It is not caring about being judged. Freedom is when an expert professor is not scared to say “I don’t know.” Freedom is playing that instrument in public for everyone to hear. Freedom is talking to the boys on your hockey team. Freedom is singing or showing people your amazing dance routine in public. Freedom is you being you and me being me.