My last seven months of traveling have been liberating. I have gone where I wish, when I wish, and how I wish. I have had the freedom to be myself. But it was not until the last few days that I truly began to understand and be grateful for my freedom. I have realized that I am not just free to wander, but I am free from the inside out.
First, my American friend joined me to travel. I haven’t met many Americans during my travels so it was strange to be around someone from the same place as me. I realized that when people ask me where I come from, I tell them America; but I have lost this sense of identity as being “American”. So am I just “Athena”? I feel as though even this name is dissipating with each day of this nomadic lifestyle. To name something is to give it a definition, a limit, a confinement. But I have become like water- fluid, never ending.
A few days ago we met a girl named Justine from Argentina. She had shaved eyebrows, a septum piercing, tattoos covering her body (even on her forehead), and a quirky hairstyle. I was absolutely stunned by her freedom of expression and began to understand my own freedom. I have realized that since leaving the US, I now see how everyone is put into a box there. As a child we are taught what is “right” and what is “wrong”, which could vary from sharing to never getting tattoos because people have given them a negative connotation due to their own sense of discomfort within themselves. Yes, I just went that far… When I lived in America every time I got a tattoo that was so precious to me, I felt this twist in my stomach from outer pressure and opinions. I felt as though with every tattoo I got I became further from acceptance, from support, and from possibility in the current system. We are taught what is beautiful, that we need to be perfect, we need to have a certain title, and a certain amount of money. We are taught that we don’t look acceptable to walk out of the house with no make-up on, why? Why has the organic human body become such a disgrace in America? Why has it become absurd to live your life for yourself and no one else in a way that makes you happy?
I choose not to identify with a title, money, or a degree. I choose to be free, to live in a way that makes me happy, to simply be.