I study international relations. My life and the conversations I have with colleagues usually revolve around one basic word: freedom. We debate government policies and offer solutions to the problem of human rights and the need for freedom across the globe. That is laudable. That is honourable, to dedicate one's life to gaining freedom for others. Other times I hear things such as these in conversations:
"Before I step out of my room I think of what to wear. Is it good enough? Does it fit the occasion? I need people to see me and think, “Yeah, she's fly.”"
"If I didn't have to deal with uncertainties and the expectations of society, I'd have stopped school and pursued art; that's where my heart is."
"I love that girl. She makes my heart soar, but her religion is not the same. My family would not approve."
"I can't be doing all those romantic shit these guys do. I can't have my G's thinking I'm soft. The street don't like soft."
"I didn't want to go to med school. I'm doing it for my parents. They always wanted a doctor in the family. *Laughs, but with misery*. I wanted to be a farmer, you know. The soil ... there's something about the ground and making things grow out of it that always lifted my spirit."
"I always wanted to be in a musical but I was also in the basketball team. The guys would have killed me."
Are we free? I look deep down and I also know I am not. I am not 100%. Some of my actions are also influenced by the assumed perception of others. It is wrong. I made the same mistake back in high school. I used to be afraid of what people said about me. I tried to be on other people's good side, and ended up dimming my own light. I gave the world less of myself just so I wouldn't seem "too cocky" for those who lacked self- confidence. (It took me a while to discover that a lot of people dislike confident people only because of their own inadequacy. I didn't know that back then). I wasn't free, and it led to a loss of a part of me I'm currently fighting to get back. I wonder what everyone else is losing because of this inability to stand for who we are and what we love.
I have a smirk on my face now. The trip down memory lane and the realisation that a lot of those people are no longer in my life amuses me. Half of them I probably won't see ever again. Life has changed a lot since then and I'm my own man just as they are their own person. None of the high school politics matters now. I refuse to lie on my deathbed and think of my adult life the way I think of life in high school.
Have you lived free, or you share a similar story to mine? Are you going to live your the rest of your life for yourself or for others? Are you pursuing the career you truly want? Are you doing the things that make your soul happy, the kind that makes you smile as soon as you wake up because you are so eager to go and do you?
What influences your relationships, is it your heart, or what you think others think?
The prison of being concerned with the opinions of others is so frustrating, time consuming, and distracting. If you think about it, it is only their thoughts. Yes, it seems like a big deal now. It is, actually. These are our parents, our siblings, our friends, our society - the very ones we subconsciously feel we need in order to survive. It is scary to disappoint them. I know, I’ve been there. Sometimes I go there, but is this fear worth a lifetime of misery? A lifetime of looking back and whispering, what if?
No, I don’t think so.
There are cultural and religious claims of multiple "lifetimes". It is not in my place to dispute that, nor will I waste much of your precious moments debating that view. What I do know is: I currently have one life to live. I do not remember a life before this one, and I don't know how I got here. I'm grateful for this experience, and I want live free – free to live as I dream. Free to pursue my dreams without thinking I’m accountable to the opinions of others. Free to be me.
Let us join the journey of the free ones - the ones who dare to be. Let us be empathic on this journey, living with open minds and acceptance. Accepting our friends, family, and neighbours as they are without scruple. Let us believe in the dreams of others, tolerant to their ways so that we may receive what we give, for it is truly the way of the universe. I wish you well.