what freedom looks like

Today I started reading The sun and her flowers, a book of poetry by the young and notorious Rupi Kaur. The book had been in my apartment collecting dust because poetry can be intimidating for me to consume. Sometimes I have to mentally and emotionally prepare before indulging, digesting and then regurgitating it (aka I’m just extra.)

If you didn’t know Rupi has mastered poetic brevity. Her quick one-liners tend to pull me below my seat then throw me into another time/space/being. So naturally, I was pressed when stumbling upon “what love looks like” on page 30… because it was long as shit.

Long-form poetry had been one of my first loves but over time the instant gratification of shorter pieces (similar works from neon soul by alex elle, salt by nayyirah washeed, etc.) win me over. Thankfully I gave this longer poem a read. It is an intimate tale about how she discovered that she attached the concept of love to a man she once loved. This man became her full definition of what love could look like:

“That’s when it hit me
And I realized how naive I had been
To place the idea so beautiful on the image of a person
As if anybody on this entire earth
could encompass all love represented…”

When I read this excerpt it felt hauntingly familiar. I had done this before. I wrote the piece below a couple of months ago via twitter. It feels reminiscent of Rupi’s sentiments on the way love looks, except with freedom. It was also about a someone I loved deeply:

IMG_2593

He was my model for free. I remember searching for him when I desired freedom from anything in my life (work, family expectations, racial injustice, poor spending habits).  He alleviated my constriction and I felt consumed by his ability, as a black man, to attempt a life unrestricted. I wanted what he had. Fearlessness. But it is dangerous to want what others have. I not only believed he was necessary for my forward movement, but that moving toward freedom was no longer a concept worth pursuing without his influence. How simple it is to deny ourselves the agency and creativity of designing our liberation when we believe it to have one form: possessions from others, intimacy from a lover, love from our family, power from an oppressor.

I still can’t believe I had mistaken someone for my sole source of freedom. A concept riddled with complexities and idiosyncrasies far beyond a one-dimensional, self-serving and emotionally abusive 22-year-old. But this is an easy and common way out of searching within and depending on self…

Rupi would agree.

The bulk of my poem is actually about using time to overcome this dependency. Even though time was a huge factor, I spent an insurmountable amount of time reflecting on these questions:

How often have I thought freedom to be someone (or something) that could alleviate my pain or mirage my  reality? How often am I dependent on someone else to provide me with moments freedom in the smallest and biggest ways? How does this jade my understanding of liberation and how I can move toward it?

I hope that you ask yourself some of these questions while trying to figure and reconfigure what freedom looks like for you.

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