This is an edited transcript July 4th Reflections from my Dragonlight Press Presents podcast on Spotify.
Yesterday was July 4. As the holiday approached, I was experiencing a lot of ambivalence about it. Sometimes even irritation at the disconnect between celebrating what we call Independence Day while at the same time, all over the country, rights are being stripped from people on the daily. It’s had me thinking a lot about freedom, especially in the context of how many people (and it’s a lot more people than most of us recognize) don’t get to enjoy real freedom.
This is not going to be a political rant. Instead, the kind of freedom I’ve been thinking about is that of our minds—how we are conditioned and manipulated, from the time we are children, into spending long portions of our lives not being who we are, not thinking for ourselves, or not being able to express ourselves authentically.
We are slowly corralled and herded by parents, religion, society, peers, media, into boxes that make us more palatable and comfortable for the people around us, whether that aligns with our own vision of ourselves. Many times, we don’t even know what that version of ourselves looks like, what our true selves are because we’ve been shaped by all these external forces. We’re told how to dress appropriately, how to speak appropriately, how to conduct ourselves appropriately. What can we do with our hair, what can we do with our bodies? The restrictions and boxes get tighter as we grow.
As an example, my generation was taught to sit down and shut up. Children were to be seen and not heard. A few months ago, during the holidays, I was taking part in a zoom call—not a work thing or a class but a social group of people. I’m not going say who they are, but one person in the group kind of took charge and decided to sort of moderate the call and basically laid down this decree of how we were going to run things—one person would speak at a time and tell everybody what they were up to, what was new, and then the next person would talk.
Now, did that make sense? Yes. Because, as we all know, you can’t have everybody talking in in a zoom call at once. But even understanding the larger context of it, I was irritated. And I remember it triggered memories of when I was young being told at school or at home to be quiet or that I was being too loud. Constantly being silenced. That experience was actually the catalyst for my story, “Jackie in the Box,” which is part of the Anti-Villains series—the idea of being silenced, specifically as a child, and those restrictions placed on children becoming more and more claustrophobic. Like a cage. Or a box.
So, these ideas have been rattling around in my head for the past few days and I’ve been reflecting on and remembering glimpses of the child that I was being before life got to me. Before trauma and bad choices and abusive situations all turned me into someone completely unrecognizable from the child that I was. I remember that as a little girl I was admittedly loud. But also bubbly and silly and bright. Sassy. One word that keeps coming to mind is vibrant. I had this vibrancy that by my teens had all changed. In my early teens, around 14, there were still times where that vibrancy would peek through and when I felt like I had the freedom to shine. I was very much into like being a cheerleader. Or if I did any kind of singing or performances, that was an outlet. That was freedom for me. However, by the age of 16, that was gone and life kind of beat the last vibrancy out of me for a long, long time.
This is not meant to be a walk down sad memory lane, and this is not a gloom and doom space. The point I’m getting is that as I have gotten older, I find that vibrancy coming back as a result of challenging the programming and conditioning of the past and of the influences around me and being able to discern for myself what is truth and what is authentic. Being able to decide for myself where my personal freedom is. It’s a process and not an easy one to be sure, but certainly worth it. And so, as we think about what July 4th means, I just wanted to come in and say that it’s crucial, especially now, to find and hold onto our own internal compass, self-determination, truth, and personal freedom. Because as we are seeing, we’re going to have to fight for the external freedoms we’ve enjoyed up to now.