As we celebrate South Africa’s first democratic elections which took place in 1994, it seemed like an appropriate time to evaluate what freedom means to me. Freedom finds itself spread across a spectrum. Freedom, or exercising the right to be free, is a deeply personal and political practice.
In essence, freedom is a chameleon notion and I’ve come to appreciate just how privileged my version is, writes Robyn Simpson.
Recently, my colleague, Bryon (B-Dog) Lukas asked if he could work from home for a day. Not because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because of gang retaliation which made it unsafe for him to travel to the office.
His reality ripped through me like a bullet.
In that moment, I was profoundly overwhelmed with guilt. Not only because of my initial ignorance, but because of the lack of awareness and appreciation that surrounds the luxury of living a beautifully free life. A life where freedom involves deciding between avo on toast or granola for breakfast, not routing and rerouting the safest way to get to work alive.
Again, freedom is personal.
And so, with a deep sense of gratitude at the core, this is what being free means to me (aside from having the luxury of choosing between breakfast meals).
Growing up with a serious case of middle-child syndrome meant that naturally, I’m a wayward soul. A symbiotic expression and acceptance of this innate weirdness is dear to my heart. The ability to express myself and my thoughts without judgement.
Being free is having too many earrings, running naked into the ocean, making art and spreading love. It’s owning my position as a young woman in business, it’s jumping between feminine dresses and quirky trousers. It’s choosing when to say yes and when to say no, it’s standing up for ideas no one else understands, it’s dancing barefoot and meeting strangers.
As well as this, I reap the benefits of freedom that come with tertiary education, having grown up in a loving home, being fed nourishing meals. I carry the privilege that comes with white skin, being literate, and being fully abled.
Freedom for me, however, is not all willy-nilly and fabulous.
Beyond breakfast and barefoot boogies is a desire for other freedoms that are yet to exist in my world as well. The freedom to walk alone at night and not feel terrified, the freedom to not let my worrying mom know that “I’m home safe,” the freedom to choose whether or not I want to wear a bra every day or wear makeup to meetings.
All freedoms are relative, and as Byron reminded me, my experience of the notion is mostly a privileged one. Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum, today is a day where at the most, we can celebrate the progress that has passed and progress that is yet to come.