Have You Made YOUR Mad Dash for Freedom Yet?
Note: Please excuse the Halloween decorations... This photo is clearly a 'reenactment'. ;)

Have You Made YOUR Mad Dash for Freedom Yet?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Lifestyle Design

I sighed to myself as bus 350S, transported me through central Copenhagen. This was summer and it was too early to be awake. The closer the bus got to the first session of my three-week Danish course, the more dread I felt.

The university offers this course for free for all exchange students. It’s optional, but it was my excuse to move to Denmark one month early. It was the reason I was there.

The night before, I had done a serious reevaluation of my time. Do I really want to spend every morning of my last month of summer in class, every afternoon on a cultural excursion and every evening doing homework? I’m sure it would be educational, but there were other things I wanted to do this month, including leftover research from back home, completing a short academic paper. And then there was that website I wanted to start…

But I didn’t want to be a quitter. I had made a commitment after all… “Maybe this is just first-day-jitters,” I thought, and I should stick it out.

The bus drew nearer to its final destination and I looked up at the clock. 8:55. Wuh-oh… Was I going to be late my first day too?

Then the bus pulled up alongside Tivoli, a famous old amusement part in the middle of the city. It stopped for a long time. I took a look at the clock- 8:57- and then out the window at the giant rollercoaster in the sky.

A few seconds passed…

I jumped up from my seat and made a run for it. My heart was thumping as I bolted across the street to Tivoli’s front gates.

It turned out the park wasn’t open for another two hours, so that was a little..anticlimactic…

But no matter. I was free.

I went to a café to plan out how I really wanted to spend my month. Then at 11am I went back, rode ‘The Demon’, and screamed my lungs out.

Ditching the language course wasn’t a huge risk. I knew the consequences wouldn’t be tragic. But it felt significant for some reason. Maybe because it was extremely out of character for me, doing the “irresponsible” thing. But for the first time in my life, I was doing what I wanted to do regardless of whether it was smart or not. As Felicity Porter once said: “Even if it’s a mistake, at least it’s mine.”

This day was August 9, 2010.

It was the day I decided officially to stop living according to other people’s expectations. From now on, as long as I wasn’t hurting anybody else, I was going to do what I wanted with my life.

It’s funny how the decision to drop some silly Danish course was such a life-altering moment for me. I realized then that sometimes small decisions can have enormous personal significance.

It took years of soul-searching and a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the options presented to me before I was able to take a stand. I knew there was something else out there, but it wasn’t until this moment that things really changed for me. It was time to stop following my peers through life and create my own path.

So here’s my question to you:

Have you made your mad dash for freedom yet? Have you taken some action, whether big or small, that represented a personal commitment to living life according to your values and no one else’s?

If not, I hope you do it… When you’re ready.

9 Comments

  1. Angela says:

    This is a GREAT story! Those random impulses to do something different than you want to do are fun, get the blood pumping, and make you stop and think why you had the impulse in the first place. “Was it random, or was there a small part of me trying to tell me something?”

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Angela. :) It’s so funny, I wrote this such a long time ago, I had almost forgotten about it. Praise the ‘Tweet Old Post’ widget.

  2. Eleanor says:

    Just saw this on Twitter, guessing you hit up the Tweet Old Post widget again? :)

    I cannot even count the number of times I’ve experienced what you did at 8:57am that morning. But, unlike you, I have ALWAYS continued to the “correct” course. The one my parents would say is right. The one that seems “smart” and “responsible.” The course that’s fucking lame.

    You INSPIRE me Emilie! I hope I can scrape up the guts to do something like this, and soon. God knows I need it.

    • Emilie says:

      Heh.. that Tweet Old Post widget goes off randomly from time to time. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise, other times it posts some pretty bad writing of mine. Lol..

      I have a feeling you’re almost there Eleanor. It starts with reading and absorbing other peoples stories. I did about 8 months of lifestyle design reading before I had MY mad dash. You’re close, I can tell. :)

  3. Ruby says:

    Oh my gosh…I loved reading this life story of yours! I am so glad I stumbled onto your blog and podcast- it is really shaping my life, I want you to know that, so thanks!

    A little over a year ago I needed to break free of my life. I was told I was going to graduate my 4 year university with honors, debt free (great!) but was thinking “That’s it?” I wasn’t satisfied with my education. I realized, I could stay put and do really well where I was- well, I’d be comfortable and be as good as one could expect in my situation. I’d be predictable, dissatisfied…but comfortable! I’d live in the same house, working the same job (because that’s what everyone graduated to..the same retail jobs they had before!), getting by the same way, doing the same things for fun….same..same..same…but comfortable!

    Within a day, I was in a mentor’s office, taking up her advice on graduate school…graduate schools far, far away from my bubble. Granted, I realize now- I don’t need an “excuse” to do anything (move across the country, give away most of my stuff, move in with complete/but awesome strangers), but at the time, I needed an excuse: “Dad, I’m moving away because of my education.” Grad school, I THOUGHT, was about getting a institutional education, but I have to say, it was really an excuse to learn about LIFE, and just the justification I needed to not feel like a jerk for moving away. Leaving the area I’d lived in all of my life, and leaving my dad behind made me feel like I was a hobbit leaving the Shire!

    Now I’m breaking free of the institutional expectations. I’m a bit of a black sheep in my program for not seeing a MA degree as being sufficient in terms of becoming a truly educated person. In fact- I break free from that “I’ll let the schools teach me what I need to know,” type of learning every single day. I make random, out-of-the-box choices and I sometimes serve my head up on a plate and be brutally honest just to get people thinking. I’ve dipped my toes in the water of “break free” thinking and I am loving it!

    • Emilie says:

      Right on Ruby! Yeah, it’s funny how we all dabble in that alternative path before we finally make our break. It’s a process, but it sounds like you’re well on your way.

      And thanks for the nice words.. :)

  4. Brian Gerald Murphy says:

    I think my mad dash to freedom would be to a Danish class in Copenhagen. How fitting.

  5. I made my first mad dash years ago when I joined a monastery. Since then I’ve had to make subsequent mad dashes, and I’m currently in the process of a mad 15K which, I hope, will be the final lap into freedom.

    I started out at a sprint, and it’s been a marathon since. But I’m getting there.

    Wish me luck.

    Great post! (Again.)