Land of the “Free,” Home of the “Depraved.”

The trouble with being free, is that, are we really as free as we are led to believe?

There are some people who will argue that in the philosophical sense of the universe and the great mystery that is the construct of destiny, in all accounts of the word; we as a human race are most definitely not free. 

But there are always two sides to a story, or two faces to a coin, or a two for one drink special.

What I like to believe is that many of the choices I make in life are of my own bidding, and so I’m going to try and convince you why you should try to embrace the philosophy that “you are a free-bodied spirit and you are entitled to all the decisions you make in life.”

Granted, it’s not an easy concept to grasp. Anything even significantly philosophy related is always a cause for head-scratching or the occasional existential crisis when the time arises. But I’m hoping to avoid those thing altogether. They happen, so let’s just assume that they’re a necessary evil and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

However, that’s not the point of this blog post today, is it? No, the point of this post is to engage you in the liberty that is freedom of choice; creating the mindset that you undoubtedly are a free spirit and a free individual.

But I don’t think that mental freedom is enough to be considered worthy of being a “free individual.” I think that people may feel comfortable and free in their minds; but is that the only extent to which they feel a sliver or a fragment of clarity?

I understand that what I’m about to imply next may seem a bit unreasonable or rash in most regards, but you have to recognize the constrictions that people are being put under nowadays and the various restraints they are putting on themselves without even knowing.

One of the biggest issues that I think people have with expression of freedom or individuality is the repressive pressure of society. Society is this expansive creation of a beast that does much in the way of putting restraints and restrictions on what is “expected” or “recognized” of us [citizens, members of society, etc].

In a big picture sense I believe there’s an incredibly disastrous problem that’s arising (or that has already arose) because of this. People are so afraid of “society” that we can’t even begin to express who we are without feeling the pressure” of condescension or disapproval.  

As we grow up as individuals and learn about integrating into the world around us; we often set up these mental boundaries that act as precautionary posts or safeguards, which help as preventative measures so that we don’t find ourselves in what might be thought of as “potentially threatening” situations. What becomes problematic of these “mental boundaries” is that there’s never a time in our lives that we’re told we should take them down. And so in becoming adults we are eventually stuck with these defensive posts which divide us from the world in which we live.

And it is from this distinction that I feel as though one of the most effective (if not the only) way of combating with this mental, and ultimately physical segregation that we develop while growing up is to… And bare with me on this one….

Sing & Dance. Yes, you read that correctly, I said sing and dwnce, I didn’t make a typo. Well… actually, yeah I did make one little typo; I meant to say “sing and dance,” not “sing and dwnce.” Sing and dance, sing and dance, sing and dance, not sing or dance, but Sing & Dance. But that’s besides the point, and I hope recognizing my little spelling error has given you more than enough time to ring out more than a few ideas or thoughts about what the words sing & dance mean to you. Sure, you may have thought about Gene Kelly from Singing In The Rain or Anchors Aweigh; perhaps you side-stepped right into John Travolta and his gang of T-Birds from Grease, or maybe all you could think about was Neil Patrick Harris and his countless broadway inspired performances as host for the Tony Awards.

Whether you imagined all of those people listed above, or if you imagined none of them, you still have an idea about what singing and dancing means. An maybe for a select few of you, you might already know what singing and dancing feels like. Perhaps you’ve experienced the rush of performing, that indescribable emotion of fear and excitement all in one. It’s damn near impossible to replicate, wouldn’t you agree? But the feeling of that rush is so liberating. It’s a sense of euphoria that grips you at one moment, clenching you with a ferocity so tight you feel as though you might suffocate; and then as a moment passes, it releases you. It releases you, but it doesn’t just let you go, it frees you, it eradicates every molecule of pain and suffering in your body, it washes away all traces of disease and leaves you feeling so vulnerable and yet so powerful. 

When I said the feeling of that emotion is something indescribable, I meant it. No amount of descriptive explanation could even begin to scratch the surface of what that sort of sensation feels like to those who have experienced it. It truly is a sense of embrace that you couldn’t begin to imagine.

And with that being said, I think that’s the majesty of freedom. Individualistic freedom has that sort of power; it has that kind of authority and it knows how to “release” you. It’s hard to put this kind of concept/idea into words, but I’m trying to formulate the best embodiment of it that I can muster. I know that from time to time my eloquence in writing can slip and become prey to the overbearing tides of confusion, and yet I believe that there are sometimes that I think I shouldn’t fight it. Sometimes I feel as though going against the tide in reality is going against everything that I might be standing for.

So here’s my argument; here’s what I propose. If I can’t effectively replicate that sensation of amazement and wonder that singing and dancing emits, then I’m going to extend an invitation to you. I’m inviting you to take action and explore that side of life that you’ve never dared to cross. Sure, the implications of what I’m suggesting you do could perhaps be going against every fiber of your belief system. But what is there to lose?

Fear is in itself an illusory construct that can take years to overcome; and if fear has a grip on you so tight that you couldn’t shake it off for even a fraction of a second, then this post means nothing to you (in which case I am sorry for wasting your time).

But if you have but a microscopic bit of impulse hidden somewhere deep within you; I’m telling you to find it, and I’m tell you to use it. Go out and find that freedom we always neglect; that freedom that we always so often ignore.

Singing and dancing doesn’t have to be on a Broadway stage in front of a 2,000 seat audience (99.9% of us will never get that opportunity in our life, so don’t worry yourself with that). But that doesn’t mean you should discourage yourself from finding freedom, or unlocking happiness. 

Sing and dance on your way to work.

Ignore the preconceived notions of society; neglect the presumptuous standards that we as citizens have to “act a certain way” or “behave in an appropriate manner,” when in fact those rules and regulations are destroying the very essence of who we are.

I understand the underlying messages at work in this post might seem a bit clouded or distraught at first; but I say give it a little time to settle. Maybe the way that I perceive the world is far different from the way that you do; but what I do know is that if I can find a way to express my freedom and individuality in a manner that promotes “product” and creates “content,” so can you.

Be Authentic. Be Direct. Be Unapologetic.

Ash Beckham is an LGBT advocate, who gave a TED: Ideas Worth Spreading (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk a little over a year ago about the experience of “coming out of the closet,” incidentally not in the conventional sense that people would usually assume. She describes “Coming Out” as an experience that anyone and everyone goes through, and in her opinion coming out is any time that someone is dealing with an often difficult topic or struggle that they need to handle or manage before it gets out of control.

Throughout her talk, she refers to her own personal experiences with being gay, and commonly refers to what she calls a “gay grenade,” a symbolic metaphor that signifies the inevitable awkwardness and situational discomfort that arises when controversial or ambiguous topics are being dealt with. From listening to her talk (which I highly recommend to all), I learned a few things about myself and about how we ultimately associate our struggles and challenges with others in life.

Throughout life, I often considered my life to be a bit more of a struggle than many of the other people that I have met in life, and after listening to Beckham’s talk, I learned the humility of life and that everyone’s experience are unique and challenging in their own right. She declared that the difficulty of “hard” is not relative, “hard is hard,” no matter how you spin it. And that there is no such thing as one’s own life experiences being “harder” than someone else’s. 

It sprung a connection with the common phrase, “Everyone is fighting their own battle,” but helped to identify the specifics of what a “battle” is considered. She also outlined a few traits that she believes are essential to dealing with difficult situations, and effectively, life. 

This is an excerpt from her talk that illustrates and highlights the three main points of what she considers to be what she dubs the three “Pancake Girl Principles.” 

1. Be Authentic.  Take the armor off. Be yourself. That kid in the cafe had no armor, but I was ready for battle. If you want someone to be real with you, they need to know that you bleed too.

 2. Be Direct. Just say it. Rip the Band-Aid off. If you know you are gay, just say it. If you tell your parents you might be gay, they will hold out hope that this will change. Do not give them that sense of false hope.

3. Be Unapologetic. You are speaking your truth. Never apologize for that. And some folks may have gotten hurt along the way,so sure, apologize for what you’ve done, but never apologize for who you are. And yeah, some folks may be disappointed, but that is on them, not on you. Those are their expectations of who you are, not yours. That is their story, not yours. The only story that matters is the one that you want to write. So the next time you find yourself in a pitch-black closet clutching your grenade, know we have all been there before. And you may feel so very alone, but you are not. And we know it’s hard but we need you out here, no matter what your walls are made of, because I guarantee you there are others peering through the keyholes of their closets looking for the next brave soul to bust a door open, so be that person and show the world that we are bigger than our closets and that a closet is no place for a person to truly live.

While the talk itself is relatively short, the implications and the notions that underline her motivation and that guide her to ultimately deliver the speech in its entirety create a sense of understanding that is much bigger than you or her or I, as many things in life usually are.  Beckham claims that, “a closet is no place for a person to truly live” and I couldn’t agree with her more.  

Fear has an incredible power to manipulate and constrain people in ways they never thought imaginable; and while it may not be an easy take, fighting fear head is one of the only ways to effectively overcome it’s prowess and stature. I know I’ve gussied up the description of battling fear, and in most cases it’s just as simple as initiating confrontation. But if I know anything about dealing with fear, it’s always “easier said than done,” and if the goal is overcoming fear, avoiding it by using excuses is not the appropriate cause of action.

Being scared is one thing; it’s natural, it’s inherent, it’s often automatic. But being afraid is an entirely different thing. Being afraid means you are anticipating the fear, you are giving in to its consumption. When you act afraid, you are giving power to fear, and you are making it a more difficult adversary to battle. Fear can never be impossible to battle; but the longer you wait to fight it will only make the battle more ferocious; but it will make the victory that much sweeter.