Look at me from the outside.
I seem free like a bird—always looking for the next adventure, the next destination to travel to, the next unconventional thing to try out.
And now look at me from the inside. Look beyond the aspects of myself that I have already freed and that are empowered.
You will find a scared little girl that feels lost in this world and does not really know what love is. People tell her that they love her, but this love feels like imprisonment. They say that they punish her for her own good and that she will understand when she is older. They say she needs to follow the rules of the adults.
She asks why.
They say that this is the way the world functions. She doesn’t understand because she sees that her dad doesn’t follow most rules and he doesn’t get punished for it.
He looks free. So she decides that this is what she wants too.
Freedom. Simple freedom.
But her mum doesn’t agree with that. She believes that people need to follow the rules to be able to survive in this world.
The little girl is confused. Her dad survives just fine; why shouldn’t she be able to do the same when she grows up?
Society, school and members of her family, try to take her freedom away. So she holds on to it more tightly. They had managed to take away many other things: her innocence, her voice, her ability to freely feel, part of her joy, her ease.
But she will not let them take her freedom.
She observes her dad, trying to learn how he manages to stay free. And she copies him. She finds loopholes in the system. She cheats when somebody wants her to do something she does not want to do. She makes sure she pleases the people without actually obeying them.
On the outside, it seems like she is mostly following the rules, but in secret she isn’t.
When she becomes older, she climbs out of her window to go to parties, carefully arranging a doll in her bed to look like a sleeping girl in case her mother checks on her. She goes on day trips to steal things like makeup, cosmetics, shampoo, jewelry, and sometimes clothes.
She doesn’t care what she steals. She cares for the rush of feelings when nobody catches her.
Because that means she is free.
Cheating in school is one of her favorite things. She does not want to learn anything she’s not interested in. It makes no sense because she will forget it the very next minute. If there is no point, she won’t do it.
After all, there exists an easier, freer way that helps to strengthen her creativity: finding new, smarter, and always better ways to trick the system.
When she manages to break into the swimming pool at night, skip whole days of school, or get tipsy before her lessons, she feels like the queen of the world.
The adrenaline that flows through her body when she senses freedom gives her a sense to live an otherwise meaningless life, deprived of heart connections.
So she creates her whole identity around freedom and starts panicking when somebody tries to take it away. If the freedom goes, there is nothing left.
Freedom is all she has.
But ironically, freedom has become an obsession that keeps her imprisoned.
Because there is another half to her dad’s story of staying free. He controls people. He feels powerful when other people do what he demands. The ones around him must be submissive so that he can feel empowered and free to do whatever he wants to do.
The little girl learns that she needs to act submissively to receive his love.
But she must also be in control to gain her freedom.
What a complicated concept to grasp. It is too difficult to understand for such a little child, so she just goes along trusting it. After all, she has no other role model to choose from.
She starts to believe that connection and freedom cannot co-exist. She must choose. Submissive love feels painful, so she chooses freedom. She thinks that she needs to control her environment, control herself, and sometimes other people to stay free.
So she develops a hyper-controlling and intelligent mind to help her stay away from the control of others. Whenever she feels somebody is trying to imprison her, she uses her smart mind to find an escape route.
But there are times that freedom can be painful too. These are the times she remembers that she is free but alone. Just like every other human being, she needs love. In these moments, she despises the freedom and seeks connection instead.
Yet she learned that she cannot have both, so her life has now becomes a rollercoaster ride of imprisoning love and lonely freedom.
The rollercoaster continues for years. For a time, her mind decides that she needs to be thinner to be lovable. So it makes her stop eating. She starves herself for weeks until she quits the plan, thinking that love is just too painful to attain.
Her freedom energy rises again. She starts binge eating with no limits—gaining weight, feeling fat and unlovable, she wants to lose weight again and finds herself in a cycle of losing and gaining weight, control and submissiveness.
It takes her a while until she finds self-worth again. She finds less painful ways to cope with her wounds. She turns into an adult and starts traveling. Her travels become her new coping mechanism to escape the pain of isolation.
But then, she enters into relationships. They feel amazing at first, but slowly become toxic because one belief is still present: connection hurts. And so she escapes it once more.
She is torn between the desire for love and the need for freedom.
She becomes this whirlwind; an exotic bird constantly on the move in search for total liberty.
Welcome to my world.
While I have freed myself from a lot of burdens from the past, there is a part of my mind still obsessed with freedom.
Over the years, with more awareness, some of my travels have become genuine heart desires. Others are still an escape from the potential control of my outside world.
I desire to be free.
But this time, I will free myself from a false concept of freedom. I will instead learn how to be free within trusting commitments to others and to life.
I had learned that love means attachment and attachment means restriction. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I attracted relationships into my life that would confirm this belief. I felt trapped and wanted to get rid of the heavy chains of this limiting concept of love.
But there cannot be any freedom in attachment.
Real freedom can only be found in true, caring connection. And true love has no chains.
Author: Alice Dea Smeets
Image: Christopher Windus/Unsplash
Editor: Callie Rushton