First time I ever thought about freedom was during the civil rights movement of the 60s. And there was no one who moved me more than Martin Luther King Jr., our iconic civil rights leader. Never really had reason to consider freedom until his words bore symphonies of his voice into my brain. I'll never forget his passion and the way he led us to believe that human beings could learn enough about each other to believe we had a chance to live together well.
And then he was murdered.
My faith in his hope died on the night of April 4, 1968, too Everything he had said made complete sense until then, but his death demolished my faith. Two months later, Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down, and my faith was reduced, even further.
Then came the Israeli six day war and the Chicago Democratic Convention....all brutal, all fearful. All of it sending me into a state of dissolution. It was a very long time later before I had faith in what our county could become again.
That was until I learned the lyrics of Kris Kristoffersen's song, "Me and Bobby McGee," sung by Janis Joplin. I was so young and I soaked up lyrics like a sponge. When Janis sang, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose," I finally GOT it. Life made sense once again.
Freedom was thrilling before 1968, but in that year, our country's freedom was threatened by the Vietnam War, asssasinations, political brawls and the draft. Men who wanted to work at anything other than teaching were headed to classrooms, in which they didn't want to work, or to Vietnam. Women were fearful of losing their loved ones and soulfully worried about what would come next. But Kristoffersen's lyrics continued to make sense.
Many of us had lost a lot, and in a perverse way, that's what set us free. We had other choices to make if we were strong enough to think it through. Some women who lost their soulmates to war, set out to "love the ones we were with." Song lyrics continued to feed my choices, and although I stuck to a plan, fate forced changes and I was free more and more.
As I matured, I found that all the changes I feared, led to the freedom to think beyond the now and thankfully, I chose well. There was a time when I thought I found the perfect corporate job, only to be downsized ten years into my plan to retire from the company. Again, I had the freedom that offered me nothing left to lose, so I painfully and sadly set a new course.
And now, what I've learned as a mature adult is that freedom can be scary much of the time. And boy, did I learn it the hard way. But as a full fledged novelist, I know that I am now free to do exactly what I wanted to do since I was seventeen, which was to tell the true tales I learned throughout life and then call it fiction.
That's what I call real freedom.