We had freedom at 3. We lost it somewhere along the way. What’s stopping us from gaining it all back?

I went to Liverpool 1 with a friend and we were sitting in Chavasse Park in one of those picnic sailing boats.

It was a moderately sunny day; the clouds were dipping in and out of the sky, covering the sun occasionally but weren’t threatening chaos. It was sunny enough for families to take a day trip out and enjoy the weather before the heavens decided it was time to exclaim utter sadness over the city over Liverpool.

I observed some of the children aimlessly running around a circular glass precinct near the boat I was sat in. They were on average about 15 years younger than me. But they were so carelessly free.

It made me think.

Life is damn short.

But in the moment, it really doesn’t feel that short. We use the term “It lasted a lifetime” to express the extensive length of time something has gone on for. For example, “Being in that class felt like it lasted a lifetime. I’m so glad it’s over.” And you’d have a fair point to argue talking about an insignificant moment “lasted a lifetime”, but is it not a bit weird to compare any length of time of a certain situation to the average lifespan?

I know it can be a saddening and dulling moment when someone or something draws your attention to the thought of dying/dead children, but watching the children play and enjoy themselves made me think of the fact that there’s a possibility not all of them are going to be alive in 15, maybe even 10, years. This isn’t the pessimist in me talking, more so the realist. Children die every day; it’s a common situation and I am lucky enough to have lived for a solid 18 years despite the majority feeling like a consistent and simultaneous kick to the throat, stomach, knees and everywhere in between.

I’m not saying a lot of the children I observed will die in the next 15 years, but a small, small percentage of them might. And who even knows how and by what means. It could potentially be suicide, a vehicle crash or completely natural causes to name a few.

But enough of that; death isn’t the main focus of this article. Maybe in the future.

Remember when I mentioned the phrase “carelessly free”? I was thinking and going into detail about what that means in the context of 3-year-olds.

The children were running. They weren’t chasing anyone neither were they being chased by anyone. To put it into a few words:

They were running from no one going nowhere.

I also saw a handful of girls ranging from at least 2 to around 7, maybe 8, who were doing cartwheels. Some were amazing and some weren’t so amazing.

But who cares?

They sure as hell didn’t care about how good their cartwheels were. What even is a “good cartwheel” to them anyway? Unless they had previously attended gymnastic classes, which I’m sure a couple of them had judging by their utterly amazing acrobatics, they wouldn’t really be aware of the difference between good and bad. I saw a few girls perform continuous amounts of cartwheels and even turned to my friend to ask how those girls just didn’t look the slightest bit dizzy when they took stopped for a second or two before carrying on as if nothing else mattered. Because to them, nothing else did matter.

Three-year-olds must feel so free. I fully understand that they, to us, are no where near “free” — they’re babies. But people in their mid-to-late teens feel so trapped. We, as older, definitely what I’d assume to be more society-aware beings, known the true meaning of “freedom”; we’re able to recognise a free spirit when we see or hear of one. Because we compare. We compare our personal idea of freedom to the amount we each have.

A week later — 2nd August

I went back to Liverpool with a different friend this time.

The weather was different, of course. It was cloudy, really cloudy; so much so that the clouds were most definitely threatening chaos this time. As I was shopping, there was the slightest bit of rain — nothing hectic. Nothing that caused me to feel like it was a mistake travelling to Liverpool to celebrate my birthday. I personally love a bit of rain, whether I’m inside or out, and the rain was there albeit barely there.

So, naturally, after a couple of hours shopping, I went back up to the picnic boats by myself and sat for at least an hour and wrote everything I could see and hear.

The week prior, I saw a larger amount of girls than I did boys. This time, I saw slightly older boys, fewer families and a definite drop in the number of younger girls. That could surely be down to the weather, although the increase of the male species couldn’t possibly have been down to the weather, could it?

Maybe it was because it was my birthday. Maybe the Lord was attempting to grace me with a wider range of boys. Although there is a flaw in that theory. I’m now 18, not 8. I most definitely saw more 9-year-olds than I did 19-year-olds.

To the right of the boat I was sat in was a series of activities: the “football challenge”, the “basketball challenge”, the “bungee zone” and a place to cycle with a twist — you can charge your phone as you ride the bike!

I focused on the Bungee Zone as the most activity was happening in that area. There were about 4 bungee trampolines, all supervised by a man who looked slightly bored out of his mind, strapping kids into the bungee harnesses and letting them out when their time was up — also he was quite the looker may I add.

I had watched about 3/4 rounds of kids bouncing on those trampolines and noticed something that was consistent in all of them.

They weren’t really interacting with anyone, yet you could see on their faces that they were enjoying themselves. The freedom of being in the air, swinging their legs in the air, leaning backwards and forwards in the air, but knowing that they’ll safely be bouncing back down on the trampolines. That was me observing children experiencing a sense of freedom you don’t see every day and it was truly fascinating.

While in the boat, writing away with my headphones in my ears, I had the sudden realisation that I haven’t felt as free as I did in that moment for a while. I was doing exactly what I love; listening to music and writing. The two most calming activities that I can think of. And to add to it, I was alone.

I’ve lived a life so far where I only feel happy when I’m in the company of others; when I’m with people who can take my mind off everything negative. I’ve always read and heard people say “You are responsible for your own happiness”. And yes, I agreed, but I never really understood how people could ever be happy when they’re on their own doing things that they love because surely doing the things that you love with other people that you love makes everything 10 times more exciting?! That may be somewhat correct, but I finally understand.

I get it now.

The sense of not giving a shit about what the strangers you’re surrounded by are thinking about you, the sense of doing what you love and really immersing yourself in it, the sense of spending hours doing it all and not even realising how long you’ve been doing it for. That, to me, is what can give you pure and utter happiness.

I then looked up and noticed two boys walking past, stopping and staring right at me. I assumed it was because the sight of a girl sat by herself writing away in her notebook about Lord knows what must have been an unusual sight to them. I was also subtly bopping my head to the music that I could hear which wasn’t at all to the beat of S Club 7’s “Reach for the Stars” that was being played through the speakers provided by the coordinators of the activities mentioned before. That might have contributed to the very confused stares I received.

I sure as heck didn’t care what those boys thought of me; what anyone thought of me. I’m taking hold of freedom’s reigns and I’m not letting them go.

“Free as a bird”

I was also observing some birds — ones that were flying high in the air, ones that had flown so close to my face they could have knocked my glasses clean off and done some damage to my eyes in the process and ones that were walking around without a care in the world. To a lot of people, reading that might have seemed like a complete waste of time, and maybe you’re right, I’m sorry. But looking at those birds reminded me of the phrase “Free as a bird”, which coincidentally relates to the basis of this article.

The children that I had seen on both occasions were free, and so was every single bird I have ever come across. As free as they could be, wanted to be and decided to be.

By chance, the second friend I went out with gave me a house decoration, if you will, of a bird and attached to it was a heart that had the word “Hope” written in the centre.

It’s a truly lovely present and from now on, I know that every time I see a bird, I’ll be reminded of hope. The hope for happiness and freedom. The hope for true happiness and freedom. In whatever form that may come.

Published by Bushra Shahriar