Warning: Freedom is NOT Everything it’s Made Out To Be!

Have you ever felt that you need time out from your life?

Would you like to one day just jump on a horse and ride into the sunset?

A friend of mine recently went overseas for ten days to visit some family. Soon afterwards, she told me that she felt overwhelmed at home. She wanted to go back to Europe and leave her children with her husband. I know that she will never do this, but I started thinking about it.

What it was that made her feel this way?

I also feel sometimes like running away. Small kids, teenager and husband can take its toll. Especially around 5 pm (suicide hour) when everyone wants something from you and it is not all the same thing!

What’s so appealing about running away and leaving it all behind?

Can You Do a Shirley Valentine?

Let’s say that you run off and leave everyone behind, like in the movie Shirley Valentine. Ok, it worked for her, but why? Her marriage, her relationship with her children, her relationships with her friends were all so meaningless, that she had to find meaning somewhere else.

Personally, I think that is really sad and hectic, to take a life of 40 odd years and realise that there is no meaning in it. I would also run away I suppose. So Shirley Valentine only started living on that Greek island. Her whole life before that amounted to nothing that she valued. The weight of being someone else on a Greek Island was more than her whole life she left behind in England.

So, what is that about? She felt free in Greece, free from the trappings, monotony, and boredom of her life in England. Of course the problem is when she starts to create a life for herself in Greece, would she still be able to give it meaning?

She will be working, and find a partner and go shopping and get stuck in traffic and read books and watch TV (albeit in a different language!).

However, she will still continue have a life just as she had in England. Friends with which to go out with and play Bingo with.

Will she really find herself not talking to a wall again?

Can you really ever get away from yourself!?

The Real Predicament

So really what is the question? Is it better to start anew if you find your life meaningless, or is it better to take what you have and get meaning from that?

You met someone and married and had children and created a career and a life. Is this not hugely meaningful? Do you not have meaning to those around you? Is it not incredibly selfish to leave those who need you and depend on you?

Perhaps the problem is not that there is no meaning in your life as it is, but rather that you are unable to see it.
Or perhaps, you should endeavour not to allow your life to become meaningless in the first place. Can you find nothing in this life which you are good at or enjoy or love?

Freedom Is…?

Freedom is different things to different people. I am not talking about freedom in the broad sense, but personal, in your life right now.

Do you feel completely bogged down by your responsibilities? Is this the reason for your longing for freedom?

Let’s consider this for a moment.

More time to yourself, less responsibility, free to have sex with someone else, free to drink and drug it up, doing only what you want to do, have total autonomy. Please feel free to add whatever you think constitutes freedom to you here.

But just imagine having all that freedom. Would you really be free? No, you would probably not feel free at all, because you would find yourself living a life with no meaning yet again.

Freedom Means Living a Life Filled with Meaning

So Where Are you At?

How can you separate who you are from the life you are currently living? Surely it is not a mistake that you are where you are.

You got to this point as a culmination of all the choices (conscious and unconscious) that you have made.

• If you are a fatalist and find yourself here because it just happened, I suggest to you that it is exactly where you should be.
• If you find yourself here because you planned to be here, I suggest to you as well that it is exactly where you should be.

It is not a coincidence that this is your life!

It reflects who you are and what is important to you, and if it doesn’t, reassess what you want and what is important to you. You CAN have it all – freedom and meaning right here.

This idea is explored in Stephen’s blog “Becoming”.

What is your definition of freedom? Do you think it is possible to have meaning and freedom?

This is a guest post from Anja Van Kralingen – read more inspiring articles about the meaning of life at her blog In Pursuit of Meaning.

9 Smart Ways to FOCUS in the Age of Distraction

Get this life-changing guide, absolutely free, along with weekly Make It Happen tips delivered directly to your inbox. Just type in your email address below.


  1. Anja,
    Great post. No, we can’t get away from ourselves. Running never solves anything because wherever you go – there you are in the thick of it. We do need to find the meaning in our current lives and to realize that every day is can’t be all “hearts and flowers.” There will be tough days and fun day and days to celebrate but pining for freedom won’t change a thing.

  2. Where ever you go, there you are. So true.

    But I also believe that sometimes getting away for awhile can show us what is not working well in our lives. Perhaps freedom means simplifying, getting rid of clutter, saying “no” to over-extension, clarifying what is important and what is not, walking away from dysfunctional situations that bring us down, identifying and releasing resentment.

    Freedom is truly living in alignment with our deepest values.

    Sometimes, getting away for awhile brings spaciousness and clarity. We see our lives through fresh eyes.

    Twenty-six years ago, I spent three weeks on a Greek island, living in a fishing village next to the bakery. I read books, swam in the ocean, hiked, ate fresh caught seafood, and hung out with a couple of great European women I met. A fabulous vacation, but not real life. I would not want to spend the rest of my life there. As a tourist, you see the good, without having to deal with the hard. After three weeks, I could see the hard.

    I came home refreshed and made some big life changes.

  3. @Angela. you raise an essential point – every day can’t be heart and flowers, but a lot of people have that as a goal, they don’t want to accept that suffering is part of life and growth. Thanks for your great input.

    @ Mary Jane. Great feedback. Been there and done that! Can’t get a better endorsement to the blog! 🙂 And I totally agree that sometimes you need time out to reassess. Thanks.


  4. marc van der Linden says

    Dear Anja,

    I believe the only freedom we truly have is listening to our soul.

    That’s means you can never can get away from yourself. I would never want to do ‘Shirly Valentine’ … it is a freedom we all have: escape from our current life. But if you have not defined what you really desire in life, it would just feel like somebody just escaped from prison and wonders: what is next?

    And if you want to be truly creative, you can wonder what you love to create in life. It can be a family, but it also can be a successful blog, a business, a fortune, the nicest relationship in the world, want do you want to create?

    And if you know what you want to create, you are free to do so while taking the responsibility it requires …

  5. Hi Marc. Listening to our soul is quite challenging in current times. So much noise going on and most people are afraid of silence, yet in that lies our freedom. Thanks for the great feedback!

  6. marquita herald says

    To me freedom means being able to live my own life in a way that is meaningful to me – not escaping from my life, but living it fully each day. I used to live someone elses life when I had a corporate job – now I’m building my own life … I work as many if not more hours every day, and I love every minute of it. That is my freedom!

  7. How wonderful for you. I am sure that it wasn’t an easy decision to leave corporate and pursue you dream. Thanks for your sharing your experience.

  8. I can’t agree more to this statement “Freedom is different things to different people.” Freedom is something relative.

  9. This was an awesome post. I know some people who are too scared to be be free for the fear that what it might actually entail. Couple of close friends come to mind – even my husband is a bit like that.

    That being said, too much freedom is never a good thing either, especially for me. I work best with some boundries so I know precisely what to change and which areas of my life need more freedom. With total freedom, instead of doing my best, I resort to becoming the laziest person in the world – not a good thing. 🙂


  10. @Christy & Marya. Thanks for your feedback. I do think that freedom has a lot to do with having a goal. A goal has the power to transform suffering into “legitimate” suffering. It changes your attitude towards obsticles/resistance.

  11. Diaz Samera says

    Nice post.

  12. Hi Anja,

    You make a great point. Being single, in college, and commitment free is a wonderful phase we go through.

    However, it isn’t sustainable for most of us. We need structure in our lives and we need that support to get through the challenges that face us. Having a spouse and starting a family is the way many of us naturally come to that structure and support.

    Excellent post,


  13. Anne Brandt Dias says

    Hello Anja,

    Thanks for your interesting post. Life is made up of ups and downs, highs and lows, stress and calm moments. It is how you personally react to every situation. One man’s dream may be another man’s nightmare! As the saying goes ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. It is good to get away sometimes to be able to think quietly and freely without any interruptions either from work or family. One has to learn to manage one’s time, at work, with family and friends and time for oneself. It is all very well to want freedom but I believe it is a selfish way of life. Sharing and caring are so important and one learns from experiences, some good, some bad. In every bad thing, there is something positive. One only has to learn to look for it before daming it. Although retired, I am far from bored, I only wish I had more hours to the day. Being totally free with no commitments would be a very dull life indeed!

9 Smart Ways to Focus in the Age of Distraction


Get this life-changing guide, absolutely free, along with weekly Make It Happen tips delivered directly to your inbox.


Just type in your email address below:-