The Illusion of Freedom
by Pranami Gajjar
That evening she sat in front of that window. She used to sit there every day. The same room, the same window, the same spot, every day. She watched them all living their lives like they always wanted, what they always dreamed of. It wasn’t easy for her to see them have everything that she didn’t have or couldn’t have. It was getting dark outside, and suddenly the old lady screamed, “Rapunzel! Close that window! It’s getting dark outside!”. She wondered whether she could ever go outside. She wondered how that green grass would feel. She wanted to feel those droplets of first rain. She wanted to feel the sunshine on her face, she wanted to dance free, she wanted FREEDOM! She was waiting for the prince to come and get her, to give her the freedom that she longed for. Little did she know that her freedom lied in her own hair, she didn’t know that her freedom lied inside her. The Prince was not what she needed, what she needed was self-realization, self- confidence and most importantly, she needed to believe in herself.
We often tend to forget that the key to our freedom lies within ourselves. Many times, while looking for solution outside, we forget to look for it within ourselves.
The definition of freedom is different for everyone. For some, it means the independence and for some it means the freedom to act and speak freely. For some freedom is to dream and for some it is to go somewhere they want. Here, I’m talking about only the philosophical freedom and not the political one as it is a totally different concept.
I’ve seen people who are not allowed to wear particular clothes or go some places. The key point here is not everyone has control over their freedom. We as kids or teenagers are often controlled by our parents, the adults are controlled by their responsibilities. We all are fighting our own demons and thus we all controlled by our insecurities or duties. None of us is actually free. And freedom is not just for a particular age group or gender.
I was talking to a friend (male) of mine about how we as females are not allowed to go out in dark or to do certain things which are basic and our brothers who are younger than us are allowed to do. So, I kept on ranting about this for a while and then what he replied to this was something that changed my perspective of freedom. I never looked at this matter in a different way and when I did, it changed the way I think about freedom.
What he said was, “Pranami, we all face restrictions. Agreed that you as a female might have to struggle for basic things which we as males don’t have to. But this does not change the fact that we too face problems every day. Yes, they are about completely different things but we all do face them.
We as males are expected to earn money and support our families. We are looked upon as ATMs. We are loved on conditions. Girls are asked to marry only the guy that earns a decent amount of money. We are respected only if we have a good job or else we are just a mere disappointment. We are loved only if we provide them with materialistic things. We sometimes cannot follow our passion just because there is a risk of failure. We sometimes don’t have the freedom to follow our dreams and passions. We have that constant pressure on our heads and that little subconscious voice in the back of our mind constantly asking- what if you fail? What will you do then? Who will take care of your family?
And this is the reason so many of us are stuck in these 9am-5pm jobs. These people might be our dads. Maybe this is the reason they wake up every morning and go to the same office and return back home at 6 pm? Do you really think they like their jobs? No, he is doing this for you, he missed your parent-teachers meet because he was working for you in that office. We all have our own responsibilities here. We all have to play different roles. Not everybody has freedom. Not your dad, not your mom.”
Ask your parents what would have they done differently if they had freedom to do anything. The answers will amuse you for sure.
So, after this conversation, what I really think is that freedom is nothing but an illusion. The illusion we all are chasing somewhere, knowingly or unknowingly. But while chasing freedom, what we miss out on is reality, the reality of life. The reality where freedom is ideal, something that is too perfect to exist. No one is actually free in all aspects. And if someone says that they have all the freedom they need, they are lying. Or maybe they are in the illusion of freedom. We all are trapped in the golden cage of life.
No one is going to help you achieve what you call as freedom. You’ve got to help yourself. And instead of running or chasing the freedom that never was actually there, focus on what you have. All you can do is grow. Try focusing on how can you grow individually at your own pace. The nearest thing to freedom that you will ever experience is satisfaction. The satisfaction of doing something that you always wanted or of at least even trying. Instead of running to reach the peak of mountain, enjoy the process, enjoy the beauty of nature you see on the way to reach that peak. Because even if you fail to reach the peak, you will have the beautiful memory of the path you took.
I would like to end this piece with a quote by Emile M. Cioran:
“For you who no longer possess it, freedom is everything, for us who do, it is merely an illusion.”
– Pranami Gajjar