What does “freedom” mean?

Last week I convened another discussion on “thoughtful aging.” Amid the talk of life’s mixed gifts, Kathryn C. gifted me with an “Aha Moment”–“When I retired, I was giddy I was so happy! Such freedom!” Something rang hauntingly familiar. When Kathryn said “freedom” I heard Richie Havens strumming and chanting at Woodstock. And then I got it. This freedom the olders talk of–from the need to meet others’ expectations, from the need to conform–it’s the freedom the hippies were talking about back in the 1960s!

The older people I know tell me they feel more free than ever in their lives. THIS is the gift waiting for you if you choose Door Number Three–the outlook Dr. Bill Thomas calls “Age Enthusiasts” in his book Second Wind (which I review here.)  In that book Dr. Thomas praised hippies for their willingness to “reject the adulthood on offer and explore new, nonadult ways of living beyond childhood.” I think that’s what some of us are up to now–we’re exploring ways to live as nonadults. And we are giving ourselves as much permission to daydream glorious alternatives as we did in our day-glo twenties.

Kathryn wasn’t done speaking. “I have freedom. But to what purpose?” she asked.

I put the questions to you:

  • What was the “freedom” you longed for, fought for, when you were a young adult? Describe it.
  • As you grow older, what purpose do you envision for the freedom that will increasingly be yours? See it. Tell it.

Seriously. Send me your answers. Let’s see some “freedom” essays here on True Stories Well Told.

-Sarah White

p.s. If you want to be part of the conversation, join me at my Facebook group, Thoughtful Aging-Madison.


About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to What does “freedom” mean?

  1. In the early 1990s, I was working for an up-and-coming biotech company. I LOVED it there! The founders were interesting, funny, highly intelligent people and they hired “their kind of people” from top to bottom. Being in that environment prompted me to go back to school to become a psychotherapist and do many other creative things. I will never forget, however, the moment of insight when I suddenly realized that I had always intended, once I got the freedom to structure my own life, to buy all the art supplies I wanted and do all the creative art projects I wanted. With no one to ruin my evenings with “homework” I was going to be rich in free time and creativity.

    “What happened to that dream!” I wondered. Here I was in my 50’s and I had forgotten! “They” had tricked me! By the time I “had my freedom” I had forgotten what I wanted to do with it.

    That very week I bought a roll of film for my camera and took a whole series of pictures of the red and golden ash trees that were in such amazing fall colors. I also picked a number of the leaves and pressed them. Using a spiral bound blank book I made my first book called “All These Leaves Came From The Same Tree.” The pages alternated between pressed leaves, which even to this day show a dim version of their glory, and photographs. One of the pictures was good enough that I had it professionally framed and it is hanging in my living room.

    Well I bought an old chest of drawers and slowly filled it with art supplies: A drawer of book binding and book making supplies. A drawer of embroidery supplies. A drawer of calligraphy inks, nibs and etc. A drawer of acrylic paints, expensive colored pencils, watercolor pencils, crayons. A drawer of sewing and quilt making supplies. One of those jointed wooden people you can put into any position. Books on how to do all the things i wanted to get better at.

    I recently decided that I was spending too much time reading and not enough time creating so I have two of my ongoing projects out. I work on one of them every day before I go to bed.

    Freedom, to me, means that your bills are paid and you are not wasting your life by sitting in front of the television. You are spending time very day doing things that make your heart sing.

    Oh by the way, yesterday I discovered pictures of my great, great, great, great (4-great) Atkinson grandparents on http://www.findagrave.com who I had never seen a picture of before and also found a picture of a young 3-great grandmother who was much older in the only picture I had of her. I spent my “freedom time” last night doing genealogy. It made me so happy!


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