Advanced Essay #1: Free Spirit

This piece is a glimpse into my past and how I've come to be as expressive and free as I am today. There are many factors from my childhood that changed the extremity of my expressiveness from being so caged and restricted when I was growing up.  I have changed a lot over the years and have finally come to accept and embrace my free spirit.

Free Spirit

For as long as I can remember, I've always been a free spirit. I was someone who, when comfortable, could express my opinions and thoughts without caring what other people think. I was raised to make my own choices, and those lessons I learned stuck with me, even when I felt like I was being caged in. I always remembered that no matter what, no matter who you were, nobody, not even myself, could cage my free spirit.

From the time I was born, my family was always open, there were no such thing as secrets. We were raised to be the same way. If we ever had a question, my parents would always provide an answer as best they could; like the time when I was at my uncle’s house for Christmas. The house was beautifully and intricately decorated. There were strings upon strings of both colored and white bulbs lining the railings and walls along with long strings of shiny green, red, and white garland. The whole house shone and sparkled as bright as the pretty star on top of his six foot tree.

“Mommy, why is Uncle Billy holding hands with that other man?”

    “Well sweetie, that’s his boyfriend. That's the way Uncle Billy always been. He loves boys, and always will, and that's okay.”

“Oh, okay, Mommy! Do you think they will get married?”

We were always taught to be ourselves; dance like nobody's watching, sing like nobody's listening, dress for your own fashion show, walk to the beat of our own drum. It's just how my life was, and I loved being able to be myself and make my own choices. I loved feeling so free as a child.

However, things started to change when I started elementary school.

All throughout elementary and middle school I was forced to conform, and shamed for being different. It didn’t matter how small the issue was, I was punished for breaking rules and being a “distraction.”

The dress code for my old school was ridiculous. Every shirt you wore had to have the school logo on them, all bottoms must be khaki or blue for gym days, and every shoe had to be brown for regular days and all white for gym days. All shirts had to be tucked in, no exceptions. Boys were not, under any circumstance, to be without a belt, or have their hair lay past their collar. Girls were not, under any circumstance, allowed to wear pants or shorts, have crazy hairstyles or colors, or have a skirt that was too short. That is just the short of it.

I used to get dress coded and punished often, even if the issue was minor. There was the time when I was in sixth grade. It was lunchtime and I had gotten out of my seat in the middle of the room to go buy a snack from the display of starches and sweets they had at the back wall of the cafeteria. The lady running the table gave me a bright smile and let me select and pay for my snack with ease. As I was turning around to return to my seat, I was met with the dark blue fabric of a sweatshirt, and stumbled back in surprise. I looked up to meet the cold sneer of the cafeteria security guard, Mr. Moon.

“H-hi, Mr. Moon…” I said softly.

He continued to stare blankly at me

“Your shirt,” he deadpanned.

My eyes moved nervously side to side in their sockets.

“What about it?”

“It’s untucked. Why?”

Oh crap.

“Oh felt too tight and I got uncomfortable, so I untucked it.”

“It’s still against the rules, go to the bathroom and fix it, or it’s a demerit.”

I gulped and accepted my defeat, retreating into the bathroom.

I felt caged my entire elementary and middle school career, and I knew I didn't like it. So when I got into eighth grade, I finally took charge. I started leaving my shirt out more often, and after multiple warnings, the teachers eventually gave up. I started listening to my music louder; the sound of long guitar riffs and heavy drums physically making my peers flinch in fear. I stopped letting people treat me as if I was below them, I started to stand up for myself and argue back. I remember the feeling I got when I would beat kids in an argument and see them slink away in shame and embarrassment.

Things got better when I graduated. I felt free from the chains that middle school put on me. At my new high school, I was able to express myself how I wanted. I took my new found freedom and flew with it. I cut my hair and dyed my hair crazy colors, I bought more clothes that were my style, and I stopped keeping secrets and came out to my immediate family and friends. I wanted to go to my new school as the real me, not the me that my middle school tried to make me.

With that attitude in mind, I’ve managed to make it to my junior year of high school confident and happy. I haven’t let anyone hold me back from expressing myself how I wanted to, whether it be how loudly I spoke in a class discussion or how I wore my hair. I love the freedom that being at SLA gives me, it feels good not to be in a cage anymore. I want everyone to feel the same way I do. I want everyone who is too scared to be themselves, to know that it’s okay to be you. It’s not easy being comfortable with yourself, but with a little practice, and the freedom to be as expressive as you want, I know that everyone can fly just as high as I can.