Freedom is as Freedom Does

I started 2021 with a flu like illness that lasted a couple of days. It may have been Covid. Getting tested and receiving timely results is an issue in Queensland this week. In any case I was fortunate to not be seriously ill. Despite Covid being the most dominant feature of 2022 so far for me, for most of 2021 it was a non-event. 

For me, personally, 2021 was a year of travelling the ocean, and making changes to my employment objectives. From April to September I lived on board a catamaran and travelled from Brisbane to Port Douglas with many stops in between. During that time I saw many places and walked on beaches that most Australians will never see. I did not work, or think about looking for work. Life was simple. Daily chores were minimal and even things like preparing dinner was more basic than regular life. My mind was opened to a completely new way of life and I met a lot of people who made choices and saw life very differently from the majority of the world. 

Freedom is a strange concept. Part of the Human condition is being part of a community. Wether we want to or not all of us are part of some form of group. Being part of these groups, wether they be families, clubs, communities or tribes leaves us with some responsibilities to act in the best interests of the group as a whole. We are not able to do exactly as we please all of the time because some of our choices impact on the lives of others. So it could be argued that to be a responsible member of society we all have obligations and therefore are never truly free. 

But where do these obligations end? How many of the choices we make in our lives are as a result of a feeling of obligation. Or a feeling that it is the expected thing. Many people make financial commitments because of social pressures or expectations of their families. People feel that they are trapped in jobs they don’t like because they have to meet these financial commitments. Once we are caught in this spiral it is easy to feel that freedom is out of reach. 

Making the choice to step away from the spiral is difficult. It requires people to let go of things that we are conditioned to think are important. It requires us to go against the grain. It requires us to be different from most of the people that we know. Towards the end of my journey I was asked to provide a prompt for Wicked Wednesday. In it I asked the question; “What is the real world?” This idea that I was living in an alternate universe is tied to the way I was experiencing freedom. It felt as if I needed to step into an alternative universe to be free. 

Adjusting to the real world took some time. I didn’t have too many problems resulting in the physical aspects of “real life”. I got to work on time and didn’t miss any meetings. Nor did I get caught daydreaming in meetings. What I did find myself wondering was where I was heading with my job. I knew I didn’t want to stop working but where I was working and how I was being directed to do my job wasn’t what I or my students really needed. On a whim I applied for a new job at an alternative type of school. 

In what seemed like the blink of an eye I had a new employer. And so, despite an interruption from Covid 2022 seems like it is a case of out with the old and in with the new. 

2021 Not Stating the Obvious

When my son was in high school, he was given an assignment to write an autobiographical excerpt about a time in his life that was formative. It so happened that we had travelled as a family in a caravan for three months when he was about 10 years old. This experience seemed to be custom made for his assignment.

Both he and his teacher were cautious about this approach for different reasons. His teacher because he felt that writing about visiting a whole bunch of places would not really scratch the surface of who my son was. My son because how do you choose a single experience from such a rich tapestry of stuff? Is canyoning in Karijini national park more life changing than petting a crocodile in Darwin? Or sitting next to rock art in Kakadu that pre-dates any cave painting in Europe? (OK that was probably a stretch. A ten-year-old boy doesn’t care about that kind of thing)

In the end he did write about his trip but not about a particular location that he visited. He wrote about a rather peculiar solution that he invented as a means of having to cope with being in very close proximity to his sister twenty – four hours a day. (Think back of a car, in a caravan or campsite.) His narrative focused on learning to find a way to maintain personal space when being crammed up against blood relatives. In a way it got to the crux of such situations. What we learn when we go on adventures is not just the geography or culture of the place we are visiting. We learn a whole lot of side stuff, how to relate as a family, how to meet foreigners, respect for customs different from ours, respect for the environment. The list is endless.

Fast forward to 2021. I find myself planning another adventure. This one does not involve an eight- and a ten-year-old. Rather it involves a forty-eight-year-old and a fifty-five-year-old that have been married for 22 years. I have posted about our new yacht. I am not entirely sure if I have explicitly stated it on these pages, but our plan is to spend six months of 2021 sailing the Queensland Coast. The details of how we got to this decision are a bit convoluted, but it does involve a compromise, postponing of a long-held pact between Mr Jones and myself, Covid-19 related border issues and ageing relatives.

And so, we will set off somewhere between 10 and 14 April 2021. When I looked at this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt, “Looking Forward to 2021”, this voyage was an obvious choice to write about. Who doesn’t want to hear about freedom, sun kissed beaches, hidden tropical islands and coral reefs? But that is not what I wanted to write about.

At the inception Mr Jones was very worried about this voyage. He almost DIDN’T sign the bill of sale even though owning a boat like this and sailing to far away places has been his dream for many years. HIS dream, not mine. Herein lies the snag. In the beginning I was a reluctant sailor. I tolerated his fantasy and went along to keep the peace. Over time, as I documented in this post, I was worn down. I learned a little about the mechanics of sailing. I learned a little about navigation. I fell in love with the marine environment.

I was the one that pushed for the purchase of this yacht. My friend and I discussed my change of heart and she said that sometimes wives go into “make it work” mode. We recognise that something is necessary for the happiness of our husbands and families and we make it happen. I think that has happened here. I wasn’t terribly excited about the caravan odyssey that we took our children on when my husband proposed it. In fact, I flat out stated “I am not driving to Western Australia with two kids in the car.”

And then we went. The whole time we wished we could stay longer, see more, do more. It was a life changing experience for everyone. There are times in your life when you are faced with a choice to take a road that most people don’t follow. This is one of the times I am choosing to take the least trodden path. Experience has told me that this choice is not easy but it is the most rewarding.

A forty-foot catamaran seems big, but after a while of not being able to get off and anything can become very small. Land based travel is different. You can go for a walk, get away from the caravan / car and breathe. On a boat it is harder. Mr Jones worries that we will struggle as a couple. It is not an unreasonable thing to worry about. I would be lying if I said that I don’t have some concerns. But I am in “make it work” mode and so I am not letting the concerns stop me. I know that we will work out a way to relate to each other. Both of us are going to do some growing in ways we don’t expect.

So, what am I looking forward to in 2021? I am looking forward to following the path less travelled and seeing what is over the horizon.

And not stabbing my husband to death and dumping him overboard.

Dead Calm - Nicole Kidman as Rae Ingram holding a spear gun by Jim Sheldon  - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Source: Australian Broadcasting CorporationT

This post is part of Wicked Wednesday prompt #449 Looking forward to 2021. To see who else is being wicked click here, or on the image below