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Finding Ultimate Freedom Takes Back-up

by Jena Coray, The Maven Circle

jena corayIn 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.

photo by drsmoothdeath

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.


{It’s a real life Maven Circle! That’s me with a bunch of guest mavens: Kari Chapin & Eric Nixon, Bettie Newell, Jolie Gillibeau and Rebecca Pearcy- Jen took the pic!}

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.

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8 Responses to Finding Ultimate Freedom Takes Back-up

  1. Christine says:

    The same thing happened to me and my childhood best friend – it was her mom who said I was a bad influence. Happily, we have also recently reconnected.

    I like this post because it is absolutely true and I have been hoping to read more here about this topic, since I think that a lot of us wouldn’t have the freedom to be doing what we want to do without the support of others – another example might be the financial support of husbands who work 9-5′s so we don’t have to. I feel like the awesome working husbands in the background don’t often get the respect they deserve. I could have a business and do my thing if I weren’t married, but I’m not sure if I would be able to do that AND own a home and raise kids and all that jazz. It would be a heck of a lot harder. I greatly admire those who are able to do it all on their own! But yes, definitely, we should stop and consider the importance of those supportive people who are backing us up.

    Also, I’m so sorry I missed the event last night. I wanted to go but was distracted by gardening. I’m sure it was amazing. Jena, you look so gorgeous in the picture with your blue dress on! All you mavens are so beautiful and powerful!!! Rock on!

    • Oh, funny! I’m glad you two reconnected too. Isn’t is awesome? I’m so glad you brought up the support of the hubster, yes, I couldn’t do any of this without mine either. I feel the same way- I know I’d still have my business, but not sure I’d be able to have bought a house, or even moved to Portland, or it would have at least been a lot harder. But the emotional support I get from him is irreplaceable and has kept me going when I wanted to quit or give up many times!

      Sorry we missed you last night too but gardening is a good excuse :) Thanks for the kind words! -jena

  2. Andrea says:

    Great post! I think that your parents did the right thing by limiting your friendship. It’s so important to have limits. Then, as an adult, you can choose and then YOU are the one who is wholeheartedly responsible for your surroundings. Supportive parents are ones who limit and ask things from their children to help them grow. Now, you know who you want nearby and why, but when you’re young, you don’t have the same reasons or the same judgement.

    • Hi Andrea, oh I agree limits are important for kids! I think to a certain extent testing those limits is also important for the kid in order to ascertain their independence and begin to judge what is right and wrong in their own right, rather than from what others tell them. But in all honesty, I’m so glad it didn’t happen any other way because in a larger sense, the loss of our friendship allowed me to find myself independently of our relationship and grow in different ways, and forced me out of my comfort zone. And the fact that it now circled back to where we can be friends again as adults makes me think it all happened exactly as it was supposed to. So you’re right, my parents actions helped me to grow. I think I’ll understand much better if I ever have kiddos :) Thanks so much for reading and saying hello!

  3. Kerry says:

    Love! Just this last weekend I went to visit my best friend in Flagstaff and we talked about a similar situation that happened to us in high school. The separation lasted about a year and I went back to her hoping to renew our friendship. We ended up going to college together and made a gazillion wonderful memories! We both knew that would support each other and we can always count on each other which makes me feel so lucky. After moving last year I am now focusing on finding connections that truly support me. I am trying to move past trying to please everyone so I can find the true freedom you talk about here :)

    p.s. Love the Maven photo!!! XO!

    • Hi Kerry, Thank you! That’s so awesome that you have an old friend like that in your life that’s still close- maybe that’s how they best friendships are, no matter how long you are apart, you can still feel close whenever you come together. You are lucky to have a friend like that! And I hope you find some new people there who you connect with because it makes settling into a new place all the more awesome. Good luck with things! Hope to take a maven photo with you someday! (hint hint) jena

  4. Coral says:

    Oh Jena – I wish more people would talk about this. I finally found the courage to go after my big wild crazy dream after letting go of the wrong people in my life. It gave me the energy I needed to devote to myself. As I’ve gone on my adventure, I’ve found people I want to be surrounded with. I’ve let go of people who didn’t have the right feeling I wanted, and found others who were a good fit to learn from. I’ve Skyped with some people and emailed others – making amazing connections with gorgeous girls on the same adventure as me. In the process, I’ve found the courage to be the real me, rather than trying to fit in. That is part of what is making the adventure so fulfilling and is also one of the most unexpected discoveries I’ve had.

    • Yes, yes, YES! I love everything you had to say and am so glad to hear that you’re really creating that community of support around yourself too- it really feels different, doesn’t it? I think your comment is sort of life’s journey summed up- you first have to break away from certain people and go it alone until you start to find the right people, the ones you feel wholly yourself and supported by, and then it clicks that as liberating as it feels to forge ahead alone, it’s even more fulfilling to have people along the path with you. Thanks for being part of our Maven Circle here Coral, we just love you! -jena

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