Just over a year ago, before I left for study abroad, my twin brother and I got matching tattoos. On his right wrist, in my handwriting, “Stay Free.” On my left wrist, in his handwriting, “Stay Free.” When we first got them, our mother was understandably furious. She said, “what happens when you get married?” “Hopefully when I get married I’ll still feel free.” Immediately slipped out of my mouth. It’s true though, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t we always feel free?
I used to think about freedom a lot. I still do, but now that I believe I’ve found an understanding of what freedom is to me, these thoughts are no longer frightening. I like to think of myself as a free spirit. I believe that anyone you ask would tell you that I am, and yet I often find myself trapped in the confines of my own mind. Still, I often appreciate being alone with nobody and nothing around, just my mind and me.
My thoughts often become so vivid and so real that I can simply relax no matter where I am or what I’m doing because the reality is that I don’t feel like I’m stuck wherever I am. It would be so easy to sulk every time I have to go to class and it would be so easy to be upset about it and let it ruin my day and feel like a wasted hour. Why would I want to go through life like that though? Why would I take the easy way out when the easy way doesn’t lead to any sort of fulfillment or joy? It’s so easy to notice the negative aspects of everyday life and to let them poison your soul. So let positivity in. Don’t worry about how boring class is, focus on the friends you might make because of that class, or even simply appreciate the chance to learn.
For me, freedom isn’t something you can put into words. It’s not material. It’s just a feeling. I’m sure this is a familiar feeling for many, but it’s also a feeling I never want to go away. So how do we find freedom? How do we find that feeling and hold onto it? In my opinion it stems from optimism, open mindedness and love. If you can consistently project these qualities onto others then you are free. Free of negativity. Free of fear. Free of hate. It comes from within, but we need to project it.
I’ve stopped setting alarms and closing the shades at night. One of the most incredible experiences for me is waking up to the sunlight. It’s not a sudden heart attack at the sound of your alarm. It’s not a chaotic rush to get up and ready as fast I can after sleeping as long as I could. It’s a slow and gentle touch of warmth letting you know that morning has come. I can’t express how relaxing my mornings are when I can take my time waking up and enjoy the silence of a new day. I have time to reflect on the previous day and to think about the day ahead of me.
I no longer allow myself to stress about much. Socializing used to stress me out until I realized that most people who want to talk to you are going to be friendly. Some of the best people I’ve ever met are those who I accepted into my life at the most unexpected times. My friends from India who were studying in Australia when I spent a semester there are the most generous and open-minded people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. And what’s better is that I know they will be my friends for a lifetime. I returned home holding onto their values of friendship and generosity and continue to spread those values everyday.
Music is also a major factor for me in holding on to this enlightening feeling. Lyrics and sounds have the power to change the way we are feeling in seconds. I find it important for myself to begin everyday with some music. My father has always been a huge Bob Dylan fan, and I’ve found that listening to his music while I prepare for my day has always been inexplicably comforting. Whenever my Dad and I take rides together we always listen to Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, who is my favorite. We often joke that we don’t have to rush home because we simply enjoy taking the time out of our day to slow down and appreciate something we both love.
There is also an incredible quote by Tom about college and life where he says, “the work never ends, but college does.” I encourage everyone to look up the entire quote. This worry-free mindset has been engrained in me. If my friends are all going somewhere the night before I have a paper due and I don’t want to miss out, I’m going to go anyway. That’s what I think life is about. We shouldn’t worry about an essay that, when you really think about it, is such a minor part of your life. Time with friends can never be replaced and we should make the most of every chance we get to enjoy their company.
On the other hand, alone time is so important if you want to stay true to yourself and achieve your own goals. I think self-reflection is imperative to an all around positive lifestyle. All it takes is ten minutes each day where you can find a peaceful spot to think about what it is you want, what you want to become, and what you love about yourself. I would like to emphasize that last part. Everyone should love who they are. I often take at least thirty minutes to myself just to reflect and I often end up writing without thinking. In other words, I let the pen touch the page and I’ll think of maybe three words before everything begins to flow smoothly like a waterfall from my mind to the page. I often look back at what I’ve written and don’t know how I managed to get to that point. But let me tell you, more often than not I look back at what I’ve written and I learn something about myself.
Of course there are days when I lose touch with myself and this feeling, I’m not perfect, but at the end of the day life is too good and too precious and so I believe we all must do whatever we can to be happy and love each other. Part of that includes helping others remain positive. I often don’t know how to help friends who are stressed or worried, but I have come up with a simple solution for any friend who is feeling anxious. I simply look at them and say, “hey, buddy. You can do anything.” Honestly a lot of my friends love to hear that, maybe because we don’t hear it enough nowadays. I believe it’s true though, especially if we work together. Mother Teresa once said, “You can do things I cannot do. I can do things you cannot do. Together we can do great things.” Together we can maintain freedom.
I guess what I am trying to say is, we all go through traumatic times. We all feel stress and anxiety in everyday life. We are all surrounded by negativity. However, simultaneously and beautifully, if you can recognize it, we are surrounded by positivity, love and hope. Stay Free.