Handlingsfrihet – invented freedom and voice

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and let the pleasure we invent together

be one more sign of freedom

-Julio Cortázar – “A Love Letter

(“y que el placer que juntos inventamos
sea otro signo de la libertad.”)

When he told me I had complete “handlingsfrihet”, I was exhilarated. At least for that brief moment. With him, I knew it was just fantasy and would never come to pass. Total liberty and freedom to do whatever I wanted was possible only in our shared imagination in those very limited moments.

In reality, the only place I have complete control, artistic license, the freedom to choose and speak is in using my voice. I could hear my true voice somewhere inside but never really pushed it into the world with any degree of authenticity. As soon as I consciously decided to write something (other than a letter, a school paper), all kinds of artifice and “trying to make things sound good” clouded the basic premise of the writing and the core idea of what I wanted to express. Still, the voice was there. It was just muffled under layers of my own doubt.

Even when I was young, teachers and influential adults around me told me I would be a writer. Teachers in whose classes I was never a student even referred to me this way. I don’t know where the reputation came from nor how it spread. By the time I was a confused adolescent, I had convinced myself that all these adults were praising my writing only as a means to bolster my self-confidence, not because there was any truth to it. I felt cheated, mistrustful and misled. In my own dorky academic way, I rebelled – I could not live up to the expectations they had created (I thought) and did not want to be told what I was. I took language classes but steered clear of explicitly writing-focused courses (journalism, creative writing, etc.) and never looked back. My life ever since has still been all about writing – academic, corporate or what have you. But the practice of writing a short story every day, as I had done effortlessly when I was 13, was and is long gone.

These days I think a lot about writing and freedom and how, for me, they are intertwined. I can only escape from the unhealthy misery I feel right now if I embrace writing as a rope with which to climb out of the space I am increasingly feeling trapped in.

Handlingsfrihet will be mine, one way or another. (Baking and recipe posts coming soon.)

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