On Living Free: In Travel, in Writing, and in Romance

The constriction in my gut at my first job interview was intense. I held my hand over my stomach, blinking toward the woman before me. Her eyes held a great power over her clipboard; her fingers flipped pages, parsing through the questions she was meant to ask me for this position.

First position, at the downtown pool. I could swim; I’d been certified as a lifeguard. But the questions: they seemed malformed, as if designed for someone entering a serious, guarded operation.

“What about your character will make you a valid part of the lifeguard team?”

My character? You’re questioning my character? I frowned, feeling the tatertots in my intestines flipflop against my acidic stomach lining. (I was sixteen, at this time, and still partial to the grease-lined high school cafateria food. This was pre-Michelle, FYI.)

“What would you do in a state of emergency?”

Um. Panic? Probably. I was sixteen years old, and the biggest heartache of my young life had only just happened: my cat had ran away and never come home. A tragedy that shook me to my skinny core.

The questions dragged on, and I quivered in my chair, answering them. Finally, after mumbling through several words; after pausing and staring out the window, wondering if this would be the end of my free summers, she asked me to sign a paper. Every word I’d said had been garbage, and yet: they still put me away, strapping me to the lifeguard chair for the remainder of that lost teenage summer, allowing me to burn to a crisp for four months of the year for the following three years.

Nothing about that job — or any of the remaining ones after that — really stuck with me. The sheer idea that I had to be somewhere, clocked-in, available to everyone (yes, even at that internship during which I “tweeted” for most of the day for a downtown newspaper) really disturbed me. Instead of being a loyal teller of ending of school days, the clock became a sort of jail cell, strapping me in for the long haul.

Which was why, after college — and after a few inexpert weeks at a downtown writing position — I was out. I shook my Ann Taylor Loft from my shoulders and burst into the sunlight. I was free.

But I needed a way to promote my freedom — which is, necessarily, the very core of why many people think freedom (freedom of living, not to vote, in this instance) is out of their reach. How can they possibly travel the world, never root themselves to their mundane existences? How can this be true?

Essentially, the phrase: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” comes into play here.

Search for online jobs to teach English. Find freelance positions that allow you to work from home, from a coffee shop (a carrot cake before you), from wherever you please. This way, you’re not strapping yourself to one desk, eight hours per day. You’re opening yourself up to the possibility of something.

And in many ways, this is rooted to both writing and romance, as well. Don’t limit your words, your genres. When I darted from Romance to post-impressionism, for example, I found myself utilizing words in incredibly new and vibrant ways — ways that actually grew to inform my Romance writing. Not bad, eh? I’ll never get stuck in a writing rut again. (A way to help this, of course, is to READ many different genres. A past boyfriend once told me to read his detective novels — that I’d like them. But I scoffed. I know now, full-well, that his suggestion was brought with goodwill. After all: detective novels hold form better than most books. They could teach me about the ways in which I formulate my post-impressionist novels — for the point of meaning, rather than anything else.

And of course: this living free is evoked in romance in many different ways. For example, women and men who work to create boundaries, who don’t discuss things with each other, who have specific times in which they hang out; they aren’t living free, really. They aren’t putting themselves in creative environments together, allowing themselves to grow.

Rather, they’re stifling themselves and ultimately pushing against each other, faltering.

Thusly, it’s essential to “live free” in relationships. (And this doesn’t mean having an “open” relationship — unless you’re into it! But most people I know aren’t.) Rather, this means that you’re meant to open yourself up to your partner. you’re meant to show your partner your freedom of expression, wholly and completely. Only then can your partner see the true, realized you. This is beautiful, beyond anything else.

Don’t tag yourself to one idea, one place, one thing. Rather, spread your arms wide to the world — and ask the people you really care about to share this openness with you.

The open world is waiting.


Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Lauren McKinnon.