Human life is full of emotion and conflicting experiences, perspectives and desires, but one need that rings true across all of humanity and beyond is that for freedom.

It seems that with the complexity of the human experience— the establishment of civilization, and the fascinating ability for us to walk around in our own minds and objectively analyze our own consciousness— we would have held more tightly to this innate need. Instead, it seems that we have allowed ourselves to drift away from it.

We have allowed ourselves to shift our understanding of freedom over and over again to fit society’s mold of what we are expected to want and to be. There are endless layers of expectations and assumptions telling us what we should desire and strive for, from the way our bodies look to our sexual orientations, to how much money we make and how many things we own to how we speak or where and if we are educated. It goes on and on.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted freedom.

Freedom from the strict religion I was born into.

Freedom from a dysfunctional family.

Freedom from what people thought and said about me.

Freedom from my thoughts, my body, my entire life.

When I traveled abroad for the first time, I felt freedom.

No one knew me or my story in the hillsides of Ireland or the bustling streets of London. I could be anyone, going anywhere, for any reason.

I was somewhere completely new with virtually no reminders of the life I had temporarily left behind. Even I began to forget the crosses I bore, so how could anyone else know about them?

It was through travel and shedding the parts of myself that were damaged that allowed me to find my freedom. Perhaps the most important things I learned from this experience were that your freedom does exist, and once you find it you should never take it for granted.

When I returned home, I became so aware of the ways I compromised on freedom. I think this is inevitable once tasting something divine— you cannot rid your palette of the sweetness of what belongs to you. Even then it is so easy to drift back into the world of compromise and expectations.

I allowed myself to be mistreated, to be relied upon in ways that prevented me from dreaming, and to insist to myself that the path everyone else was walking was also meant for me, but I just so happened to be miles behind. I told myself I couldn’t do this or that because of my body, my illnesses, my station in life, and in that way I temporarily convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of the freedom I had experienced.

Leaving “home” was my equivalent of freedom. I did it by buying a ticket and leaving everything behind. It was immersing myself in the unknown of new places and cultures that satisfied my eleutheromania— that vibrant zeal for freedom that many people with hearts like mine satisfy with wandering and adventure.
There are many areas of life that require compromise, but I suggest not letting your quest for freedom and happiness be among them. You can always find about a million reasons to compromise in the world and believe that the things you want are not necessary, and that your goals are too far-fetched. You’ve got to free yourself of those notions and realize that compromise will only get you so far before the bars of your cage become too real.

I find freedom in anonymity and also in sharing my story.

I find it in tasting new foods, hearing new languages, and experiencing new ways of living.

I find it in realizing that there are a billion opportunities to learn, grow, and inspire.

I am still learning, growing, and finding myself. I am not some embodiment of happiness and freedom and I am not brimming with hope every moment of every day. But it has been so long since I felt alright discussing these things. Even now, I feel like a fraud, since I have so little experience embracing these qualities of life. I still struggle with freeing myself from what is expected of me, of the negative emotions I have about myself and the world, and the memories I have to tuck away to feel okay.

This is a journey for me, and these realizations are a sort of map.

Freedom, Happiness, and Hope are some of my greatest destinations.

I hope you’ll join me.

Love, Ari

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