I remember Jean-Paul Sartre described freedom as “anguish” from my existentialism class when I was at university. The freedom to make choices with nothing to restrict us is an incredible burden of responsibility—and is what relegates us to constant anguish. Similarly, Kierkegaard explains anxiety as the “dizzying effect of freedom” where we become paralyzed by our infinite possibilities.
I think their ideas resonated even more with me as I truly began to experience adulthood. Freedom is terrifying. As you leave the confines of the classroom, you no longer have your “A”s and golden stickers for reassurance. You become more aware of the uncertainty of life. Your job, relationships and everything else external to you cannot provide you with the constant reassurance which only you can provide.
While this may be a terrifying thought, it’s also somewhat magical. Because what emerges from freedom is creativity, where you have the power to craft your own life. Freedom is like a blank canvas allowing you to paint any way you like. What makes it beautiful is that it’s unique, unlike imitation art. The interest and excitement come from engaging in one’s freedom.
In fact, the anxiety goes away once you engage activities where you’re freely creating something. Whether it’s playing music, getting work done, trying a new recipe or going for a walk (where you create your own route). I think what makes freedom paralyzing is when we contemplate the magnitude of our choices rather than practice how to relish them—and be okay with the choices we make no matter what.
Lately, I’ve been exploring ways to relish my freedom by engaging in simple self-care activities such as colouring, yin yoga, and listening to podcasts.
I also realize that I need to try solo backpacking so I can feel even more comfortable with my blank canvas (i.e., freedom). And perhaps I’ll even find my next inspiration. This will happen. 2018 is the year.