The last time I can remember being completely free was when I was a five-year-old, learning how to ride my pink bike with the handlebar streamers and white wicker basket. The first time my dad took off my training wheels, I cried out with glee and dashed down the neighborhood road, leaving him behind with his hands on his hips and a proud grin. There was no doubting my place in this world then.
But when I was thirteen, I laid on my back in the strange hours between night and day as a slowly rising sun crept in through blinds to cast shadows on the walls. I stared at the ceiling fan and whispered this dream into the air: Oh please, let me wake up tomorrow and be anyone else.
Then at seventeen, you could usually find me in the safety of my bed, “sleeping away my life” as my parents so tenderly put it. I was sleeping away the demons, and they had names – Anxiety and Self-Loathing.
At twenty, I had learned to go through the motions of life – I was a college student, and I had a lot of responsibilities, after all. To onlookers, I may have appeared happy and free, but I wasn’t even close. I had found my crutch in college – my addiction – and it was men’s acceptance. Without it, I crumbled behind closed doors.
At twenty-five, I married a man whose attention was all I lived for. His opinion of me was very low, and I defined myself that way. We weren’t truly in love, as maddening as it sounds. We were playing the parts in a horribly rated theater. We would never make it to Hollywood or Broadway.
At twenty-seven, I am divorced and living thousands of miles from immediate family. To onlookers, I may look like a tragedy. But in actuality, it’s like all the other phases of my life leading up to now were puzzle pieces, and I have finally put the picture together. And you can bet I’m glueing this puzzle and framing it so I will never forget.
The kind of freedom I feel now will never again resemble the freedom I felt at five years old – how could it? I hadn’t yet experienced rejection or heartbreak or anxiety. My days were filled with sparkles and sunshine.
But now, as an adult, instead of wishing I was anyone else, I am finally at peace with who I am – and I’m happy to be me. And because of that, I finally again feel completely free.