blurred highways: a polished personal narrative

…the impact of separation in an individual’s life.

Text: Perpetual Motion by Tony Hoagland

Freedom was a foreign concept to me when I was younger. I could not just leave whenever I wanted, do whatever I wanted, or say whatever I wanted. In my mind, freedom was when one was given complete control over their life; driving the car instead of lounging in the passenger seat.

Now, it is an expectation in society that parents harness their child’s freedom while they shape their children’s lives by implementing their values and and beliefs into their sons and daughters. However, with that form of education comes a lack of freedom. We are often not given the opportunity to experience our world through a lens of our own; it is blurred by the bias of this influencing our minds and hearts since the day we were born.

I am eternally grateful for the impact my own parent’s had on my life; they taught me to be honest and loving and compassionate. Responsibility and respect also became fundamental aspects of my character. But there were times growing up where I longed for an escape for an escape from the routine and the rules in my home. I longed for my freedom, but I had not yet discovered what that was.

On the radio, there would be musicians, singing about wide open highways and far away cities. It was through these songs of hopes and dreams that freedom was revealed to me. I remember looking at my mom as she drove me to school, and in a voice thick with longing, told her how I wished to be like those musicians one day; on the road with nothing else except a travel bag, a map, and a guitar. Driving alone into the unknown, finally experiencing freedom and separating myself from everything and everyone who held me back.

My mom gazed back into the eyes of her ten year old daughter, and with a slight smile, said, “You will one day. One day when you are older and wiser. You will want to vanish from this life and move on to the next. But do not be so eager to leave your present behind, for if you drive off too fast, you will regret it. Think of your freedom like a highway. Never in one place long and often never looking back.” Little did she know that at the time, her words were lost in my daydreams, but I do remember a nostalgic look falling upon her face as we drove.

Years passed, and I began to realize the difference between my fantastical ideal of freedom and what it truly was. My voice grew louder, my willpower strengthened, and when I received my license, I gained the ability to leave whenever I wanted. Yet with freedom comes responsibility. My dreams of my guitar and the open road were blurred out by the expectations of homework and chores. I was pressured into searching for jobs, and the insatiable demands of a teenager’s social life required me to fixate on others more so than myself. I found myself grieving my childhood. Freedom was mine now, and yet it wasn’t. I was still encased by routines and rules but my daily coffee made them a lot simpler to get through. But I did find myself grieving my childhood.

In order to cope with the overwhelming feeling that freedom heaped upon, I learned to hide in my head. My thoughts and dreams became my highway when it was apparent I could not physically leave this life; I found sanctuary driving miles and miles away from my reality on the wheels of my imagination.

My parents, who were once my main source of comfort and solace, grew to be part of the problem. They were strangers and their unfamiliar presence pushed me into the confines of my head. I was separating myself from everything and everyone I knew so well; I was under the impression that freedom was still at my fingertips.

It has taken me so long to come to a particular conclusion about freedom and separation: seeking separation is self indulgent. We fight for our space but risk losing our connections. Seeking freedom is necessary. We are expected to grow up and face the world, but that does not mean doing it alone. I confused the two concepts because of my blurred perspective on what freedom was.

As little kids, we dream about the future. It is perfect. We face the world, driving on our highways, experiencing anticipation and joy all at once. Travelling through life is seen as beautiful in the eyes of children, who listen to fairy tales and paint images of freedom across their mind; a life devoid of rules and routines, yet they fail to comprehend that these dreams are nothing more than a fantasy.  Little kids can not see the haze in front of their perception. As we grow up, we perpetually move towards our future, eagerly passing through each sign because we can not wait to move on. Freedom is choosing to turn around and stay, rather than separating from the life we were given.

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