In what may be one of the largest ironies in life, I think that finding true freedom requires lots of support.
So often we trap ourselves into a life that’s not exactly what we want because we don’t have the support to get us where we really want to go. And no matter how individualistic we can be, we are so affected by the people around us, whether it’s the ones we choose, like friends and partners, or the ones we don’t, like family, neighbors, coworkers- they all create the community of you and either aid to spur or inhibit your freedom.
I was reminded of this on a vacation I just returned from. My mister and I took a roadtrip down the coast of Oregon and California to meet up with my childhood best friend (and basically sister at the time) Megan, who now lives in New Zealand but was here in the states visiting a friend in the San Francisco area. We lost touch after high school and went our separate ways and hadn’t seen each other face to face in 13 years!
As we pulled up to her hotel to take her to dinner, I could feel the butterflies of excitement and anxiousness welling up in my whole being. Would we still connect? Would we still like each other? Would she still be the Megan I remember?
We text her from the lobby, “We’re here!” and waited on the mauve Victorian style couch, surveying the decorations over my throbbing chest. And then I heard her voice come from around the corner, “hello!”, turned to see her smiling face that I remember so well, and my nerves dissipated, falling into bucketfuls of love around my feet. I gave her a tight squeeze and her eyes started to well up, and I knew- this is still my Megan that I’ve always known. I could hear it in her giggle.
As we talked over dinner as adults for the first time in our lives, I couldn’t help but think, why did we ever lose touch? What happened?
“Well as I remember it, you weren’t allowed to hang out with me anymore,” Megan joked, “I was a ‘bad influence’!”
“Oh yeah!” I laughed, “it was totally because of my mom.”
When we were 17 and getting into very normal 17-year-old trouble together, my parents deemed Megan, the one person I felt closest to in the world since the day we met in the pre-school bathroom, as someone I wasn’t “allowed” to hang out with anymore. And being the good girl under my parent’s thumb that I was at the time, I pretty much listened and our friendship started to dissipate over our last year in high school, and then we went off to separate colleges, and the rest is history.
But talking to the still so sweet and wise and wordly and funny and amazing woman now in front of me, I realized in a real visceral way that I am the one who gets to make choices about who I surround myself with. A freedom that had been stripped away from me as a teen (perhaps understandably so) was one I didn’t end up exercising a long time into adulthood, making decisions that were not wholly spurred by me and what I wanted, but instead ones that I knew would be acceptable to my community of support, which until my mid-20s or so, was in large part, my parents.
Now, I’m choosing to keep Megan in my life as much as I can, even across the oceans, and to me, it feels absolutely liberating.
It makes me think about how many choices all of us make for ourselves and our lives that aren’t really our choices at all. How many come from what others want for us? How many come from what others need from us? How many come from what others expect of us?
So the ultimate exercise of freedom then, I think, is in making choices that align with what you really want, deep down inside. But in order to make those choices full throttle, I do believe we need support, because we’re human and we all need back-up, we all need to know we’re not alone.
So maybe the best choice you can make for your freedom is to choose who that community of support is going to be for you. To choose whose opinions to listen to, and which ones aren’t going to further you down the road of where you want to go. To choose to surround yourself with people who let you be yourself, and make mistakes and who will still love you anyway. To choose friends and relationships and work environments and hobbies that make you feel more confident in yourself as an individual.
Now that I’m 30 and in a wonderful community of people here in Portland, with my awesome hubby, Jen as my trusty biz partner and amazing friend, and open-minded friends here and online all over the world, I feel at once more connected and more free than I ever have in my life. Free to be exactly who I am, and connected and supported by people who want the same for me.
When you have people around you who are in support of your individual freedom, like Jen and I are to each other, it helps you open up, push past your comfort zone and discover new avenues of yourself that would be much harder to find all alone.
I never imagined myself speaking in front of the camera, and in public places, sharing my deepest thoughts on a podcast or playing, singing and recording a song! But with Jen’s support, I’ve done exactly that. And the pieces of me that have been unearthed through our partnership translate to me as an individual, giving me more strength and skill and assurance to use in my personal business, and life.
Jen and I actually spoke on partnership at an event last night here organized by author Kari Chapin- she brought a lot of the Portland creative community together to offer free business advice for those seeking to do their own thangs in this world, too. It was awesome. We created a little hand-out about making partnerships work that might be handy for you indie-biz folks out there- download it here for free.
Afterward, some of us speakers went out for food and drinks, and at one point I looked around and saw that everyone sitting at the table had been a guest maven here on our blog before! We were literally sitting in a Maven Circle!! And all of them are part of the community that I’ve chosen for myself to help encourage and ensure my personal freedom. Pretty dang amazing.
That’s what happens when you choose people who support you, your dreams and your desires- through them, you become more and more yourself.