“Freedom is not found in a person or place. Freedom is a state of mind.” - Teean Cummins

There seems to be a general narrative out there that we should for some reason forget 2020 and mark it off as a “tough” or “bad” year for everyone.

Maybe I have a fondness for going against the grain when I write but I’m going to do it again. We see 2020 as a year our freedom was taken from us and in many ways that’s true. Restrictions were put on our ability to work, where we could move to and who we could meet. For many businesses these restrictions were a devastating blow and I’m sure there are many more still to feel the full impact next year. For many people who were unable to visit loved ones in their time of need, it has also been tragic. I include myself in this as my own granny died over the summer and my brothers and I were unable to partake in our planned visit to her before she got badly sick.

“It is not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters” - Epictetus

It is so easy to blame other people and outside events for the circumstances of our own lives. We love to forget that we are the ones in control of how we react to things because we don’t like the responsibility. This is what’s often called the ‘victim mentality’. When you go around blaming others and the world for everything that’s happening to you. The other option you can choose is the ‘hero mentality’. This is where you take full responsibility for everything in your life. Responsibility is your ‘ability to respond’. Even if something is not your fault you always have the ability to respond. For example, if your movements are restricted to the four walls of your home you can play the victim and submit to it being a tough year, laze around the house eating shite and feeling sorry for yourself or you can see it as an opportunity to do some introspection and get clear on what you want from your life. You can start working out and eating healthy to strengthen your immune system to ready yourself for whatever virus is out there.

The only real difference between the victim and the hero is their outlook on life. The victim sees life happening to them whereas the hero presumes life is happening for them. The important thing to remember is that you get to choose which category you fall under.

In many ways, 2020 has been the year I’ve felt the most free. It has been a different type of freedom than what I experienced travelling across Central America last year. It was different again to the freedom of the open road I felt on the bike or in the van in Canada. Those journeys gave me a powerful feeling of opportunity and the freedom that comes from being able to go anywhere the wind takes you.

This year however, I felt a sense of peace and freedom in my mind. On my previous trips, there was often a quiet hum of discontent buzzing in the back of my mind. Sometimes it was a longing for home, most of the time it was a deep desire to be reunited with the woman I loved. It wasn’t always on my mind but it always seemed to linger in the background. For example, while climbing Acatenango volcano in Guatemala I couldn’t fully immerse myself in watching the volcano erupt as the sun set without imagining how it could be that bit more amazing if she sat and watched beside me.

“At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one's lost self” - Brendan Behan

This year was the first year I’ve felt a true sense of prolonged freedom in my mind. I spent many days during the summer sitting out in my back garden. I could finally sit and be fully present as I watched the birds fly from the top of the telephone wire, over to the tree, down to the pond and back again. I didn’t need anything or anyone else to make the moment any better than it already was. I didn’t need a lover as I had the sun kissing my face. I didn’t need a party as inside my soul was dancing. It was just me sitting with me and the inner demons lay silent. I didn’t need to run or distract myself from them anymore by always doing something, whether that was doing work or doing a workout.

There are many sayings we hear growing up that are complete bullshit. One of the ones I hate hearing the most is “your school days are your best days”. I’m sure for most people that is a load of shite and if you’re currently a struggling teen in secondary school that is probably the last thing you needed to hear. Trust me, life gets so much better once you start developing your mind and facing down your demons. Life can be even more magical than what you see in the Disney movies!

For me, every year keeps getting better and it has everything to do with what’s going on inside rather than what’s going on outside. Once you win the battle within, you can win the battle without :)

You can find love, you can find true happiness and you can feel true freedom regardless of what’s going on in the world. Everything you need is already within you, you just need to start searching for it.