The other day I watched a video where a young man was speaking about how he and his wife live the minimalist lifestyle. A few years ago they sold everything they had and, with only two backpacks between them, traveled around Australia with their one year old daughter. He was urging people to sell all the stuff they have stashed away in their garages and storage sheds, and then spend their time and money collecting experiences instead of material things. For him, that was freedom.
Well, that’s all fine and dandy for that young man, and many others like him. Not everyone wants to backpack around the country, or even do much traveling. They enjoy their home and the comfort it brings to them. They define freedom differently.
What all this is leading up to is how each of us defines freedom—what it really means to you. I’m not talking about the dictionary definition of freedom. Nor am I talking about the freedoms we’re afforded because someone laid their life on the line to protect the ideas and ideals that define our freedoms in this country. No, I’m talking about something much different. I’m not talking about the definition of freedom, but the true meaning of freedom for you—what freedom means to you.
Eighteen years ago I discovered what freedom meant to me. I swore that one day I’d have my freedom—the life that would define my freedom. Thirteen years ago, when I retired, I began down that path towards my freedom. Lately, I seem to have lost my way. Knowing that, though, will allow me to get back on the path from which I have fallen.
Before I go any further I’d like you to take a moment to think about what freedom means to you. Is your freedom trudging off to work each morning, fighting the traffic along the way, to work at a job you only tolerate? Or, is your freedom waking each morning, happily greeting the chirping birds, and skipping off to do something you love? How many of us are spending our lives looking forward to the day we can be free of the ties that bind us to a job, a marriage, a life we wish we could trade in for another? Only you can answer those questions for yourself. No one else can do it for you.
Let me tell you what freedom means to me. Freedom is the knowledge of knowing that I don’t have to punch a clock. Freedom is sleeping in when I want to, or rising early to catch the sun peaking over the eastern horizon. Freedom is doing something I truly enjoy doing, whether it be reading a book, listening to music, writing a story no one will read, or just wandering through the desert, camera in hand.
Freedom is growing my own food, and sharing what I can with whoever I can. Freedom is talking to the plants, listening to the stars, and watching children playing in the park. Freedom is laughing at my own jokes, even when no one else will. Freedom is crying during a sad movie, but only when I’m alone. Freedom is dancing to music played overly loud, and not caring if anyone is watching.
I can hear you now, “That’s all great, Jim. You’re retired, and don’t have to work.” Oh, au contraire, my sweet thing. I am not a man of leisure. I, too, must do something to support this habit I have—the habit of shoving food down my throat. Oh, I don’t need a full-time job, but I do have to come up with a few extra dollars now and then in order to enjoy some of the things in life I’ve grown accustomed to: fine wine, good food, and cold beer.
So, how do I accomplish that? I was working during the summer in order to finance my winters. A few years ago I seemed to have lost my way, and am now working pretty much every month of the year. For what? I wish I knew.
But, that’s all going to change. I haven’t reached the point where I want to plant myself alongside my garden, and grow food for myself and my neighbors. That time will come, but not just yet. I’ve still got a couple of more things I’d like to do before that occurs. I’ve got more things to see, people to meet, and experiences to collect.
No, I’m going to start out by wandering aimlessly through the desert for awhile, until I can find that which I seemed to have lost. Then maybe I’ll travel up through the forested mountains that surround the desert. I’m going to stay up late, sleep until I can’t sleep anymore, and do what I want to do when I want to do it, and not a minute sooner. I might even eat pancakes for dinner. And, I’m going to write. I’ve always wanted to write. I don’t care if anyone reads what I write, but I’ll enjoy myself while I throw all those words together to tell a story, maybe a sad one today, and a happy one tomorrow. I might even take up poetry. That’s a scary thought, but it could happen.
I truly believe it’s time for me to coddiwomple. So, keep an eye out for a few words from a wandering fool—a guy that sometimes doesn’t know when to come in out of the rain. I’ll share my freedom with you, but only if you allow me the pleasure of knowing yours.