If you were to be living out your dreams, at this very moment—
Where would you be?
In Louisa Alcott’s novel, “Little Women,” there is a very sentimental scene where the four sisters and their friend are describing their personal ‘castles.’ By ‘castles,’ they meant their greatest aspirations—where they hoped to be in the future, and what they most dreamed of doing. Most of them were far-fetched, seeing as they were ‘poor’ folk. Nonetheless, they dreamed of it, and…
I don’t know.
I just can’t help wondering, every day, what the world would be like if everybody were living in their castles? The world would be a better place, one would assume. Well—if I were living in my castle, I would be stopping to talk to anyone who feels unsatisfied or dejected, no matter their outward appearance. I would not let the sight of rags stop me, nor the flash of tear-shielding screens. I would be on the road, delivering letters anonymously in hopes of cheering strangers up. I would be cleaning streets, parks, and lawns of all trash, and spreading words of kindness, educating others—especially children—on how precious this Earth of ours is. I would be in so many places in this one castle of mine.
But now and again, I also wonder; what exactly is holding me back?
What is holding me back from living in my castle, this very moment? I know, many would say that the only thing keeping me from my castle is myself. Though, I really do wonder; if I didn’t have to worry about going to school every day in order to get into a good college, to get a good job, to earn money to ‘live,’ then I would be chasing my castle right now. I believe I really would. Or, at the very least, I’d be living some more alternative, hippie lifestyle. A freer lifestyle.
After analyzing these aspirations of mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I wish for with all my head, heart, and soul, is to be—that’s right.
It’s such a loose term, I know. So, I have crafted a personal working definition on what it means to be free:
“The ability to pursue one’s dreams without fear of consequence, or hindrance of self-despising spirit.”
Perhaps that ‘freedom’ is roosted in the tallest tower of my castle, yet. Not because I am consciously holding myself back, or because ‘society’ is holding me back—but because it is ourselves who hold the world back.
It is inevitable that the words and actions of one person affects another, and can ultimately contribute in dictating the outcome of that person’s life. The effects are not always direct, of course—but nothing can be undone. A choice is forever.
We all know that the students currently attending grade-school did not make the laws. I’m sure that half of them would opt for alternative learning methods, if going through the system was not ingrained in national policy. A policy that was created by politicians at least two centuries ago, a choice stamped into eternity.
Having an income. Acquiring a diploma, promotion, whatever it may be—these are only things we desire because it further secures us of ‘life’; of survival, comfortability. Laws, custom, society, mentality—they may interfere with our freedom, but they’re also an attempt to guarantee us security.
Legislations created by people of the past, prosperity for people of the future. For us. Monarchs, dictators, prime ministers, and popes—even the nicest leader of the bunch—will never be able to grant us freedom. Liberty is a humble synonym, and is available to us as long as we function within the realm of society’s rubric of legality. It is people who make our lives spin round, not any one individual. Whether it was that Massachusetts governor, or your boss’s twice-removed step-cousin, their existence is inevitably intertwined with not only yours, but everyone else’s, existence.
It does not matter if someone made a choice ten minutes ago, or ten centuries down the line. Everyone’s decisions impact the world we live in (and even beyond). Sure, I didn’t ask to attend school, and perhaps you didn’t especially desire that desk job with the expectations that it would make you happy, or free. But somehow, some way, each one of us has been ushered into a situation that we feel is holding us back from something more—and substituting that ‘something’ with a lesser reward.
Our castles are fleshed out in moats, soldiers, iron gates, the works—and with all our security, of course it is difficult to reach that very precious room on the top floor without being told to, “Please take a walk down this staircase, first.” Or, “If you want to reach that room, you’ll have to please go down this hallway.”
It is only in the name of your security, of course. The world wants us all to be content. So, it is only rational that we all follow the same customs. Customs which were created by—yes. By people, like you and me, as consequences of the choices they made.
Us. Society. The world.
We hold ourselves back for the sake of saving ourselves. Rules and custom are tactics of defense against uncertainty. There is no security in a world without custom. Chaos is the consequence of disregarding our constructions, so we tell each other. We are so daunted to climb up to that tallest tower, where our aspirations reside. Where our dreams, freedoms, risks, await.
We point each other in different directions; I choose to save you from uncertain expeditions, so I point towards the plasticine yard. You feel my aspired heights are outlandish—and beckon me to first landing, instead of the third.
We hold the world back. We do it all with our best intentions, but fear of failure has tugged us into a treacherous circle of dependence on those who know so little of our lives. Think about it—how many life choices have you made where you weren’t pressured from those who didn’t know you? Are you living with the choices you were forced to make, or choices you truly desired to make? If you had no fear of others’ opinions, or the societal consequences your dreams might entail, would you have chosen differently?