I want to be free.
What does freedom mean to you?
When I reviewed my life, I settled on a single moment that epitomized my ideal self. It was a moment during my senior year of college, when I took the stage during a session of the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature. It was a time for me to stand in front of my peers and propose a mock piece of legislation and influence the minds of others. I chose to author a piece of legislation that dealt with the current Oklahoma law on sentences for those found guilty of committing rape. I had done my research, and felt prepared to debate a topic that was very personal and dear to my heart. I had been a rape advocate for two years, as well as an advocate for domestic abuse victims.
The room held over 100 people; college students testing my knowledge and real lawmakers watching from the balcony.
I silenced them all.
My legislation passed the House, then it held up in the Senate, and was signed by the Governor of this mock session.
I have never felt more alive. More in control of myself. Or, more comfortable and confident in my abilities.
I was free to be me.
What is holding you back?
Over the following 15 years, I lost the vitality of that person. I became a person that felt buried under the disguise of another identity. One whom felt the dirt that was piled on top of her was too deep to breathe. Let alone escape.
I was mad. Mad at everyone and everything. God, my husband, myself, the State Department, a lot of my family, some of my friends,…everything I thought that contributed to the suppression and oppression of my self.
I grew up a skeptical optimist. But, the negativity in my mind was holding me captive. I could not be a happy, healthy human. I could not be Carla.
How will you find freedom?
To the outside world, I looked normal. I didn’t appear lost, confused, angry, or or out of control. I looked reserved, aloof at times. Other times I was smiling, laughing, joking with others, and involved. No matter the view the world had of me, it didn’t match the narrative inside my mind. The narrative that told ‘the true story.’
Conventional wisdom says the following are the ways to find freedom:
Acceptance of self
Taking life one day at a time
I agree they help, but they were not the direct path to freedom for me. I forgave. I still felt at odds with the world. I accepted my self. I felt better. But, others still didn’t know the truth about me. I took it one day at a time. That was short term success. I strived for a resilient attitude, even though I didn’t understand what resilience meant. I meditated and prayed. I was relieved for those moments, only left feeling incomplete when it was over.
Too often people try to minimize the struggle we go through. They think they are offering guidance, wisdom, and support. They say things like, “others have it so much worse, be grateful.” I practiced gratitude on a daily basis for over a year. Again, it was only part of the solution. I was grateful, but I still needed to learn how to move forward.
I am like Joan Didion when she said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it.” And, I needed a way to collate the two identities. I started writing.
My writing has opened others to view a side of me they probably didn’t even know existed. A side they would never have encountered otherwise. Through my writing, I acknowledged and celebrated the successes and achievements of my life, a resume of sorts. And, I carved out a path to lead me towards my ideal self. Taking Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a guide to fulfillment, I evaluated what was not only good in my life, but the specific needs I should meet to keep moving. I learned that resilience was about how to recover, not how to endure.
I had the words to speak my truth.
I was free to be me, again.
Until next time –
Recommended Reading: Resilience is about How You Recharge, Not How You Endure https://hbr.org/2016/06/resilience-is-about-how-you-recharge-not-how-you-endure
My Writing is UnCut, UnEdited, Just Raw. Life is a Rough Draft.