US

Freedom and boundaries

US
By Aimen Naeem
Fri, 07, 22

However, kids around me used to fanstasise university life and would wish for a time machine which could transport them quickly to that moment in future. For them, university was the land of liberty....

Freedom and boundaries

OPINION

As a child, the university life had no charm for me. I was afraid of thinking about what tomorrow was going to bring for me. Tomorrows for me were scary. Perhaps, I was Sahib-e-Haal (the one who lives in present, with no remorse from past and no worries of future) as Ashfaq Ahmed used to say, but no; that is too big a claim. I was just determined to make my present beautiful and I believe in it till date.

However, kids around me used to fanstasise university life and would wish for a time machine which could transport them quickly to that moment in future. For them, university was the land of liberty. They associated independence and freedom with it. I want to confess here that I don’t have any pull for university life, even today. I thoroughly enjoy my time at university but synchronously on days my heart misses my years at school and college. This clash is because of the divergent paradigms we all have; different meanings that we attach to the term ‘freedom’.

Freedom to me is something not chaotic, where I am entitled to make decisions of my life, but I can lean on a shoulder and seek for an advice whenever needed. My definition of freedom incorporates independence, yet it wants definition of the basic parameters: the touchstones of life. My sense of freedom yearns for a teacher who explicitly tells me about right and wrong, rather closing their eyes to my slip-ups, merely to respect my free will. My notion of freedom does not force people to become apologetic wannabes. I read Brené Brown a while ago; she has done extensive research on the idea of defining boundaries. To me freedom is with boundaries.

Freedom and boundaries

And this is the mismatched paradigm that I was talking about. University students take sigh of relief when they join universities; they think of it as time for liberation. But isn’t it just a pipe dream? Bunking classes, trying to fit in with the university’s popular group, unwarranted use of slang language, misbehaving with the faculty, and a life with absolutely no rules; translated as easy scenes. Is it what freedom is all about: shackles upon shackles?

But wait! My plan was not to wrangle whether university life and freedom are oxymoron or not. For now, we can leave this entire debate here to make the real point. I want to present the idea of how freedom needs restraint: a proposition I got the hang of from Burhan Shah.

Shah is a purposepreneur and a happiness coach. I watched one of his videos a few years ago, and his words still echo in my mind ‘Azadi pabandi ki mohtaj hoti hai’ (freedom is dependent upon restraint). Back then, I was not able to grasp this concept, however; I am able to understand a bit of it now. As humans our makeup is such that we always try to pivot around something, so the way we are created - we tend to conform to something or someone. Some people surrender to their friends, entreat their acknowledgement, and make them their entire life. They stop paying heed to their parents, and do not accept the cultural and religious injunctions – and guess what, they call this: ‘LIBERTY’. In reality, they are not free. Their life goals are anchored around their friends’ validation. When students use excessively abusive language, thinking of it as freedom of expression, they are mistaken. In fact, it is a subtle submission to the idea that using swear words and slang make you look cool. This is not about Gen Z only. Our parents and their parents, in fact every individual who is born, acquiesce to something or someone.

Freedom and boundaries

So, we can carefully say that submission is inevitable, the only choice that we as human beings have is to decide where to make that submission. Affirming to anything that a friend says, negating everything coming from the societal norms or somewhere between this continuum – that is our free will, that is the only choice we have.

In such a case, demarcation of boundaries and fortification helps. At university, I see individuals, who are up for opportunities, but not for all. They hang out with friends, but they prioritise their eventual goals. They know when to remain silent and when to speak. Their lives - as I said - are less chaotic. They are not wasting their energies on useless rants. They do complain, but not unnecessarily. In a difficult situation, they carefully assess their mistakes and work on them, while equally holding other people accountable, if they have been wronged. Their definition of fun never compromises their work. They crack jokes but do not demean anyone. They are firm on the ideologies and faith they believe in. They practice religion and refrain from anything even slightly immoral. If someday they cross their boundaries, or trespass someone else’s, they feel no shame in apologizing. And, most importantly, they carry their boundaries unapologetically. They respect their boundaries and compel others to do the same. When they say no, they are not afraid of telling their reasons for that. If they are declining an offer for religious reasons, they will never hide behind false facades and make lame excuses. They will straight away tell that their religious beliefs don’t allow them to do certain things, and they are not at all sorry for that.

And such individuals are actually the ones enjoying freedom!