As we grow and age, our sense of freedom also changes. I’ve always been one to be self-righteous about freedom. I know most of us are, but I remember from a young age always demanding the freedom to go to the shopping mall with my friends, demanding my parents to just let me do what I want, demanding that I go where I want. Rightly so my parents were strict on discipline and for me as a teenager, freedom wasn’t a right, it was a privilege.
When I was 13 or 14, I decided I wanted a job. Not legally old enough to be hired in New Zealand, I volunteered at my local library. For me, not only was this a chance to prove responsibility with shifts and everything else that came with the job, it felt like a step closer to freedom. I wanted to feel like an adult and a job seemed to come hand in hand with that idea in my head – funny how a badge with my name on it felt like liberty. As I neared 15, I got a job delivering papers in my local area. Suddenly I had an income on my very own bank card and a whole lot more freedom. In the grand scheme of things I was earning cents, but as a young teenager earning my own money – that wasn’t originally my parents – was invigorating. It was at that ripe age of 14, and about a month before my 15th birthday, I bought myself a scooter; freedom in the form of a 50cc engine, bright yellow. To be fair I bought it second hand, and my Dad did a fair bit of fixing it up, but it was the next step up the staircase of liberty.
The day after turning 15, and months after learning the NZ road code start to finish, I got my drivers license. I was 15, and suddenly my definition of freedom changed. From being dropped of at the mall by my Mum for a few hours, to being able to drive anywhere on 50km/h roads. There were of course curfews, and countless safety lectures, but I could drive myself to school, and as I got better paying part-time jobs, to those too. I was able to help my Mum when she was in need of a few things from the supermarket. Having a bucket on the back of my scooter, I volunteered and went up. I may have only been able to carry 2L of milk, and a broccoli, but I’ll tell you I was stoked. The most memorable thing about getting my scooter was filling up my scooter for the first time. I remember driving out of that petrol station, singing to the pedestrians I passed, grinning my face off behind my Dad’s motorbike helmet – I perfectly remember how liberated I felt in that moment.
Fast forward to a year later, and I passed my restricted license test – I could now not only drive a scooter alone, I could drive a car by myself. No parents, a speaker system (!!!) and the ability to conquer my Mum’s entire shopping lists if need be. I know shopping seems like a weird thing for a 16 year old to be excited about, but to be able to do that for Mum seemed like the ultimate privilege of freedom. Plus, if I got to use Mum’s car I could play the music as loud as I wanted. I never had my own car officially, but when my Dad bought a convertible Peugeot… well, well, well… imagine this: a 17 year old, a red convertible, driving along the coast in the middle of summer, sea sparkling in the wing mirror, stereo blasting Twenty One Pilots. Oh how I miss that car. If someone were to ask me about freedom, that memory would come to mind – so would a smile.
Fast forward to now, and my sense of freedom is somehow less perceptible. This is my third year living in London and away from home, and I do have endless freedom. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, yet somehow it doesn’t feel that way. I used to find liberty in the simple things – walking my dog alone, solo adventures to the beach, staying out after dark, and now I find it harder to get that same thrill. And no, going to Sainsbury’s to get groceries no longer makes me sing. I’ve been decently poorly the last week and I’ve had more than enough time to mull this thought over. I’m 21 now, and everything considered I am officially an adult anywhere in the world. International freedom but when do I feel the most liberated? I feel free when I’m writing. I can play with words limitlessly and I can lose myself in any creative world I choose. I feel free when I travel; away from the bills and responsibilities, I can lose myself in the new sights. I live for experiences and to travel is to self-liberate. Without thinking too much about the words I just used, looking back I’ve used the term “lose myself” in both cases. Is this really true? Am I using this in a negative way? No, I don’t think so. After a bit of thought, I think losing myself is a good thing; I stop stressing, I stop over-thinking and immerse myself in the now.
For me, living in the moment is the true key to liberty.