The other day on Twitter, I asked the question 'what do you do to feel free?' and I was given answers such as 'shopping alone', 'the gym', 'swimming', 'reading' - all solitary tasks that people undertake to have a bit of escapism and find a place where the rules and pressures of life don't exist. For me my free places are my running, my baking, my blogging and anything I undertake that is physical or creative and which no-one else has made me do.
In the society we live in, most of us have to live by certain rules. That is a given. Beyond the fact that if we didn't live by rules our society wouldn't tick over, I also think deep down we want those rules to exist. We crave freedom and to have free run of the world, but we also crave those rules that underpin our lives and we need those rules to feel able to cope. Many a philosopher has claimed that the concept of God and religion is a man-made security net, there to make us feel like we aren't totally up the creek without a paddle in this big, scary, dangerous world, and I think there is something in that.
The rules myself and my peers naturally adhere to include common courtesy because no-one likes rudeness, law because no-one likes prison, rules of the workplace (we have to behave differently in the workplace in order to earn a dollar) and rules of humanity. There are ample written and unspoken rules around loyalty, honesty, kindness and how we conduct ourselves as human beings - a silently agreed set of boundaries of this kind aren't always in written in Black and White (although many a man, religion and leader has tried), instead they come from within and they dictate how we behave in life and relationships.
However, there are some areas of our lives where we don't want there to be rules. We don't want to have to be a certain way to or to feel under pressure to do what we already spend our whole lives doing - abiding by the laws of others. For most of us we live by rules in some areas of our lives, but choose and create other areas where those rules don't exist and we don't want others to tell us how we should conduct ourselves in those spaces either. We write, we run, we dance, we paint, we walk, we talk, we laugh, we drink, we do anything we can to escape the pressures of the world, to put down our rule book and to just enjoy our life. And for as long as those things we choose to do aren't breaking any other rules or hurting anyone, we should be free to do them, right?
Unfortunately, we are all to quick to use the word 'should', to criticise and to judge each other. As a species we are so damn intolerant - social media in particular has highlighted this for me. My Twitter timeline is a constant stream of criticisms and complaints about the really minor, inoffensive behaviour and choices of others. I recently read a ridiculous article about running etiquette - that's right, apparently there are rules about how we should and shouldn't run. When I worked at a marketing agency (full of creative and free types) you could barely dress yourself without walking into work feeling judged for every choice you have made from the length of your skirt to the colour of your hair.
More recently, I have to stop myself from considering the reactions of others when making MY own choices about MY own life. There's a constant unspoken fear in society regarding what others will think if I change jobs again, if I drop out of the half-marathon and if I dare to tweet a photo of a cake. I have used personal examples, but we are all effected by that fear of 'what others will think' every day and that fear hasn't come from nowhere. I have taught myself to be strong, ignore the reactions of others and make the choices I would make if 'others' weren't in the equation, but we don't make it easy for each other guys!
When did our standards get so high? When did we all turn in to such intolerant old twits? Yes stand-up and fight for change in the world where it matters, but seriously, stop boo-ing because you don't like the way someone eats their Cadburys Creme Egg. Twitter in particular seems to have given people license to judge and it's a really ugly colour on all of us. If it isn't okay in real life, it isn't okay online. We seem to think social media is some kind of weapon and a shield to hide behind. It is not, you are still responsible for what you say to and about others on there and WE CAN SEE YOU.
If we want to run like Phoebe and sing while we do it for gods sake let us and focus on your own freedom before reigning ours in. If I want to blog about porridge who gives a toss? My blog is MY space. I created this for myself because I want a reason to write. No-one is forced to read it and it does not hurt anyone, I am careful of that. It isn't for you to make rules about how I 'should' write my own blog and if it isn't for you don't read it. The things you choose to do for yourself and the spaces you create to be free are yours and no-one else can put you under pressure in those spaces. The wisest man ever to have lived EVER once said that the biggest challenge in life is to be yourself in a world that's constantly trying to change you - overcome that challenge.
People, please! Stop criticising each other for being free and for trying to find spaces that allow us to be so. If you don't like something someone else does, that's not your fault, but how you react to it is. I don't want to be reading a blog post about how I shouldn't run or be told I shouldn't write in a certain way. I just want to live in a way that makes me happy and in the best way I know how. A wise beyond her years friend once said to me that the word ' should' was overused and that people put themselves under pressure to adhere to imagined 'shoulds' of our society. I didn't get it then, but I do get it now.
I will leave you with those inspirational images of freedom - be inspired by them.