How do you define it? Can you handle it?
The bird’s song in the mangroves is just audible over the mellow music. The fans over the bar are helping me manage the heat. I’m torn between wearing my sunglasses to protect my eyes from the sun as it sparkles off the marina water or take them off so I can see the computer screen. Twelve noon has just passed. My first beer won’t see the bottom of the hour. Such is the beginning of another day in the islands.
Freedom. Personal freedom to be exact, is a topic I’ve been rolling around in my head all morning. I was up at 5 a.m. in order to make the seven hour drive to Key West alone, giving me plenty of quiet time to contemplate. There have been many people over the past few months reminding me of how lucky I am and asking how I live as I do. People often ask how they can live a similar life. Which is why I suppose the idea of freedom took root today.
Many people say they want freedom to live in the islands, swing in a hammock or whatever seems to them as living the perfect tropical life. I’m not so sure many people can really handle true freedom. And who’s to say what true freedom really is? Everybody’s goal, purpose and journey in life is different. What I do, or you do, has little meaning nor should it, for others. I hesitate to even tackle the topic of freedom because it is so personal. What qualifies me to offer my opinion? Probably nothing, but I’m going to anyway.
As a fellow island lover and rum drinker I’d have to say that my perspective is limited to the cliche of the song lines by Jimmy Buffett or Kenny Chesney. It’s not that I am mesmerized by the men, or even the music, on the contrary. What captures me is the message they convey. This is what helps me manipulate my life’s tiller. To call it a helm is an overstatement. I don’t have that kind of personal control. Most of you don’t either. If you want freedom, you need to at least understand what you want to be free to do or how to live.
Freedom to me doesn’t mean retirement. I work my tail off, usually seven days a week. I would be lost without hard work. All of my other island friends and writers work just as hard. Just because you are free to focus your life on being a pirate, a castaway, a rum lover, a singer/songwriter or a sailor doesn’t mean you’ve checked out. I loathe lazy and don’t know anyone living an equally fun life as me who doesn’t work hard at gaining it, keeping it and enhancing it. The difference, we do it for ourselves, we are self driven, there is no boss controlling us. You can’t handle freedom if you can’t manage yourself.
Freedom means strong relationships with spouses, family and friends. I hear a lot of grousing of people wanting to be free of each other. It doesn’t work that way. When you are truly free you need a strong support network around you because you are no longer caged by the authority you so want to dispose of. For me a twenty-two year marriage that is stronger than Category 5 hurricane gives me the freedom to be who I was meant to be. There are days, like today, that I am amazed my wife kisses me goodbye and says don’t come home early you need to spend more time in Islamorada. Now that’s freedom.
Freedom sometimes means a lighter bank account. I would argue that your life account will be bursting and far make up the deficit between ledgers. Material things tend to handcuff us. Wether it be a mortgage, a luxury car or the newest television, these things can quickly suck freedom away from our grip. I’m not advocating living as a pauper for the sake of freedom. I drive a nice car, maybe too nice. I live in a new home and enjoy watching NFL football on my big screen as much as the next guy. Those things were not acquired at the expense of freedom however. When we make a withdrawal for a purchase my wife and I look at our bank and at our life accounts. If I don’t have enough to make a trip to Grenada to make new friends, as I recently did, I don’t want that new shiny toy. Instead, as in the case of Grenada, I made two friends for life. Priceless.
Freedom. I’ve worked in a cubicle, I’ve been the boss, I’ve been strung out on a mortgage, I’ve been surrounded by negative people, I’ve made big financial mistakes just like you may have. Today I’m free to drink my beer, which is not quite finished but too warm now to drink, and write on laptop in Islamorada because I focused real hard on trying to be free. Does offering my thoughts on this come across a bit preachy or full of hubris to you? I certainly hope not, nor is there an iota of intent for it to do so.
On that note another of my new friends, Shawn just texted that he has broken free of work and is heading my way. I can’t wait to make more great friends this weekend, play some guitar and sip a little rum. Such is how I define my own freedom. What is yours?
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