WHAT IS FREEDOM? :

a post-lockdown analysis of what freedom might actually mean





Joanna is an incredibly gifted Nottingham born freelance writer and a part-time English Literature student at the Open University. When not at the office, Joanna is either crafting beautifully written pieces or taking to the nearest dancefloor with a cocktail in hand.


In this wonderfully crafted take on our theme, Joanna considers how her concept of freedom has changed during lockdown. She accurately outlines the insomnia, the conflicted feelings and the epiphanies that we have all experienced at this strange time.


When you are given the time to do those things you never had the time for, your hobbies and interests appear less precious.

As Joanna states, maybe we require the structure and strife of the working week to appreciate the small things, and achieve true personal freedom.


Read all about it below


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I don’t know about anyone else but when I think of the word ‘freedom’ I think of that George Michael song. In addition to the memorable melody, the lyrics speak a great deal of sense, too. George sings, “Gotta have some faith” and “I'm gonna get myself happy”. I hadn’t really thought about these lyrics in any great detail before now, preferring instead just to bop along to the tune absentmindedly on the tram. The words, however, resonate more with me now than ever before following a three-month break from life as we knew it.


Up until March this year, I was working in an office in Nottingham. It was a good job; the people were lovely, the work itself was enjoyable and I was on a decent salary. But every lunchtime, I would retreat to the staff room, eat my cheese sandwich in silence and search relentlessly through my phone for some solace. I’m naturally more of a creative person than a Corporate Cathy and sometimes this role I play can really take it out of me because, deep down, its not who I really am. Or that’s how it felt back at the start of the year anyway. The creative side of me was desperate to break free and run down the road away from office life and head towards the nearest circus. My internet searches would range from careers in the arts industry to actually typing the word ‘freedom’ into Pinterest to see what glorious images would come up, and it would make me feel better. For half an hour. Then I would have to go back to my desk and the dream of another life spent doing things I cared about ferociously, like the arts, slipped away along with my phone battery.


Then the coronavirus hit. Next thing I knew, I was sat on my sofa on a Tuesday morning watching the news with renewed interest, utterly bewildered by the fact that I had anywhere between 3-12 weeks off work. Initially, I couldn’t believe my luck! Think of all the time I’ll finally have to do all of the things I would never have been able to do whilst working full time, I thought. Granted, not a lot could be done outside of the home due to lockdown but I could finally read and write and watch films I’d never seen and listen to podcasts I’d downloaded and never got round to starting. I could fully immerse myself in all aspects of the creativity I craved and no one would come along and tell me I had to stop what I was doing and head back to work. Not for a while anyway. Bliss!


The first few weeks certainly did include a fair bit of TV, podcasts and books. I even started my own blog, another thing I had long been planning to do but never having time for. I got to write; my favourite thing in the world to do. I wrote articles, I wrote reviews; I even started keeping a diary. I had lazy mornings in my pyjamas reading the culture section of the paper and drinking homemade lattes. I excitedly stayed awake late at night watching YouTube videos on my iPad like a rebellious teenager. The daily Downing Street updates were a bit of a downer and I had to stop tuning in to the ever-increasing death toll which was too horrendous to contemplate. Apart from the obviously sad things like not seeing friends and family and a continuous stream of bad news in the media, lockdown actually suited me pretty well.


It’s amazing how quickly the things you do for leisure are no longer leisurely when you have nothing else to compare them to. I have slowly realised throughout the last 15 weeks that not only do you need to go to work for financial solvency but also to keep your brain from seeping out of your ears. Netflix will only stimulate you for so long. Baking banana bread will only satisfy you for so long. And no one tells you that with the lack of stimulation from a proper job, you hit a point where reading a book is out of the question because your brain simply cannot focus on a plotline. Don’t even get me started on sleep. Remember when you went to bed at a reasonable hour and you fell to sleep almost as soon as your head hit the pillow? That has since been replaced with restlessly lying there at 2am utterly unable to will yourself into slumber because you are simply not tired enough to warrant unconsciousness. All this so-called freedom to do whatever you want to do for as long as you want to do it starts to become a complete nightmare. If you can even have a nightmare, that is, because, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, but YOU CANNOT SLEEP.


Nothing gives you greater perspective than a pandemic. Do you know how I would describe freedom now? Having a full-time job where you have the ability to spend your hard-earned money on doing the things that you dearly enjoy when you are not at work. One of my favourite journalists said on a podcast recently that “work is called work for a reason”. Of course, no one’s favourite thing to do in the world is go and sit in an office and type emails to people about things that you do not care about past 5:30pm. Of course, going to work requires you to play a bit of a part. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy being that part of yourself whilst you’re in it because it creates a nice comparison to the person you are at home. You are a very lucky person in life if you jump out of bed of a morning with wild enthusiasm because you can’t wait to get to work. Even if you have a job that you adore, there will still be days where you would far rather go to the cinema instead. People talk about having a healthy work-life balance all the time except now we’re seeing it in reverse. Traditionally, we’ve worked all the hours God sent without any time to switch off and enjoy life but now we have far too much free time and absolutely no idea how to write our own names any more.


I spent lockdown thinking that if I got the call from my boss someday asking me to return to work that my stomach would drop and I’d dread walking back into the office, longing to be back in lockdown. Upon receiving that very call after over three months of furlough, I can safely say that I have never been more excited about going to work. I need to feel needed again. I need to feel like my days have a purpose again. I need to work hard in order to play hard. I now believe that freedom has nothing to do with what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. Freedom is a state of mind. If you can re-train your brain into carving out a healthy balance between work and leisure and you can allow yourself to simply be present in yourself and in your life then you are on your way to a much happier life. As George says; “I've got to live.” Live in the moment. Be you. Be free.