Freedom Means I Have Nothing Left To Lose

Swerving through traffic on her way home from work, Kristin laughed at me. “Who are you kidding, Dan? You’ll never have that many kids, because you’re never getting married!”

I put my feet up on my desk and smiled. “Well, it’s not like you didn’t try to change that about me once upon a time, kiddo. Can’t say that I blame you for trying.”

Somehow, I heard her roll her eyes through the phone. “Now look at you, all settled down like an old lady celebrating your 30th birthday… you knocked up yet?”

And so it went, Kristin and I gently poking each other with the once-pointed criticisms that we’d used years ago to cut one another to pieces. Six years apart had dulled the edges enough that we could both laugh about my fear of marriage and her eagerness to rush into it. Each year the laughter came easier and the tension became less, but I always felt the unmistakable lightness of relief each time our annual phone call finally ended.

“How fitting that this song would come on while we’re talking,” she said, turning up her stereo. “It will always remind me of you.”

My eardrum nearly exploded when she held her blue-tooth up to the speakers. “Sorry,” she said, “it’s the Bobby McGee song. You’ll always be my Bobby McGee.”

A slow smile took over my face and, as is my nature, I immediately took the low road. “So you’d trade all your tomorrows for one single yesterday…?”

“Don’t flatter yourself, stud,” she retorted. “We had some amazing times, once upon a time, and I let you slip away…”

“…kicking and screaming,” I thought, but I kept it to myself.

“And, oh, here’s your line….”

She paused while the song caught up to her. “He’s looking for that home, and I hope he finds it,” she sang, badly. “I have no doubt you’ll drive some other lucky woman crazy if you ever decide to stop being a child, Dan.”

My slow smile snapped into a suspicious grimace. “Thanks… I think.”

I am sure she meant it as a compliment–Bobby McGee is the symbol of a simpler, easier time of sexual discovery and romantic, carefree youth. Of course I want my ex-girlfriends to think about me like that! Of course life was easier with me, you dumb-ass, because whatever loser you’re dating now isn’t half as fun/sexy/exciting as I am!

Only the comparison became much less flattering the more I thought about it. First of all, my ex-girlfriends aren’t dating losers. They’re married to them. I know, it sounds like the plot to a bad romantic comedy (and, as one of my proofreader friends pointed out, it is), but Kristin’s characterization of me as the perfect fun and romantic fling a girl has before she grows up, finds her true love, and gets married had made me something I’m not used to being… uncomfortable.

Because whatever happened to Bobby McGee? I mean, it’s exciting and romantic to hitchhike a ride for you and your girl by singing songs for the trucker who picked you up. But at some point, Bobby has to get his own car, right? At some point, feeling good just isn’t enough, is it?

And what about kids? This whole thing started when I (only half-jokingly) told Kristin my new plan only of dating girls born after 1986, because they are the only girls young enough to bear me the eight children I plan on fathering. What kind of father would Bobby McGee become? From what I know of him–skipping out of town and slipping away from those who loved him–not a very good one.

While I do love being single and chasing women, true love is ultimately what I’m looking for. Even though she’s one of only two girls I’ve ever really loved, I know that Kristin and I never had it. When I look into the future, I do want a wife, and I do want a large family to share our lives with.

But what I really want in the present, even since before Kristin and I broke up, is my freedom.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

As my semi-midlife crisis comes to a pinnacle, this is the phrase I keep hearing in my head. On one hand, its romantic and whimsical sentiment is an affirmation of my lifestyle–I purposely hold on to nothing so that I’ll always maintain my freedom. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about myself, about women, and about life in these past six years, even though I haven’t been in love.

On the other hand, who wants to wake up at 30 years old and say proudly, “I have nothing left to lose”? Even for somebody as fiercely independent as I am, it’s more than a little bit depressing to realize that I’ve got nothing to show for all of these years of experience. Because really, what do I have? Rather than talking these things through with an emotionally invested partner, instead I’m working through this secret inner struggle by writing a navel-gazing blog posts for strangers under a semi-ridiculous pseudonym.

And this is why the future seems so far away. I just can’t turn off my instinct to play by my own rules and cherish my freedom. And it’s not about sexual freedom–it’s the ability to make major life changes at the drop of a hat, it’s the ability to crash on couches, it’s the liberating feeling of knowing that the only things I really need are the clothes on my back and the contents of my wallet.

The ugly but simple truth is that this same devil-may-care attitude is one of the main reasons women are attracted to me in the first place. Being mildly irresponsible and irreverently impulsive is always a good time, especially with a partner-in-crime. I’m realistic enough to know that I’m always going to be working to improve my balancing act between being carefree and careless. And no matter how badly I want it in the future, I really can’t imagine that I’m ever going to be fully comfortable giving all of that up to play the dutiful husband and father role.

And as more ex girlfriends get hitched and ride off into the sunset, the years keep passing me like signs on the interstate. I’m not sure it’s possible to have both freedom and a family, but I hold on to the misguided, quixotic hope that one day I will.

One thing I am sure of: next year Kristin is going to get a Happy Birthday text message instead of a Happy Birthday phone call.

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  • May I suggest a “Happy Birthday” card in the mail, instead? 😉

    Hey, I’m born after 1986!

  • “One thing I am sure of: next year Kristin is going to get a Happy Birthday text message instead of a Happy Birthday phone call.”


  • As someone who did the “settling down” thing right away and THEN realized I want to be able to travel, move around, do as I please, I kind of understand where you’re coming from. Lucky for me, I married someone who’s willing and able to roll with these things. I wanted to go to Costa Rica for 2 months? Okay, he bought my plane ticket. I wanted to quit my day job to try my hand at writing? No problem, we’ll just cut back on dinners out.

    I guess my point is that it may be possible for you to have both, as long as you find a partner who has an independent spirit and is willing to make some sacrifices to support that kind of lifestyle. The catch? You’ll need to support her needs as well (TRUST is key). Of course, if she is willing and able to do these things with you, even better. All of this would undoubtedly become more complicated once kids enter the picture, but hey… just take one thing at a time. 😉

  • “While I do love being single and chasing women, true love is ultimately what I’m looking for.”

    And then you say

    “But what I really want in the present, even since before Kristin and I broke up, is my freedom.”

    Personally by I think by chasing True Love you aren’t giving yourself the freedom just to let it happen.

    • Really? I want true love so I should be sure not to pursue it or even be on the look out for it? And if I want a college degree I should just stop thinking about it and it will happen. Oh, and that great job or raise I want — I shouldn’t apply for the job or ask for the raise. In fact I should give myself the freedom to just let it happen.

      I think this is one of the biggest and most destructive LIE out there right now. If you want something you need to be actively doing something to get it — even if that something is just becoming the best version of yourself and waiting (and looking) for any opportunities to get it.

      And Danny, I don’t see freedom in the same way you seem to so I can’t relate to your desire to hold onto your concept of freedom.

      I know that I have always hated rules. Growing up I was awesome at breaking them. Laws too. And learning to submit to these things that govern me has actually given me a lot more freedom.

      For example, I studied journalism in college. Initially I hated all of the rules. I hated them so much that I was almost able to telekinetically make AP style books burst into flames just by looking at them. But as I learned the rules and accepted the guidelines I realized that any freedom I have only exists within a form.

      Everything from writing to my civil liberties to my ability to be myself in a relationship. Many of these forms that exist creates something akin to a fence around my yard that keeps me safe and allows me to be myself as fully as possible.

      For example, true love probably exists within the fence of a relationship. In fact, I doubt you’ll find true love until you are in a strong relationship. Just like having kids is safest (for you, the mother and the children) within the strong boundaries of marriage.

      Fences are your friends.

    • Crystal- I write poetry, so I know what you mean when you say that freedom can only exist through forms. There’s thousands of “forms” that poems can take, but they all play by (or play off of) the “rules” for each form. I get that.

      But man oh man, that whole “fences are your friends” really grates on me. Things like that only make me more suspicious. It’s a little too “work brings freedom” for me.

  • “Freedom Means I Have Nothing Left To Lose”

    I believe this is a misnomer. You always have something, even if those things are considered immaterial.

    Freedom isn’t about having nothing to lose, as “losing” infers consequences to the choices we make. That kind of “freedom” is just another way of saying we’d rather live our lives in the absence of consequences to our choices. That is not freedom, the word to use there isn’t even ‘carefree’ or ‘careless’, it’s ‘lackadaisical’, because one would have to not have any interest whatsoever in their own life, or the impact their choices have on others, for that kind of freedom.

    Freedom isn’t about not being bound to something, or someone, or not feeling a duty, nor is it about what you do or do not have/want.

    Maybe you need to free yourself of your own notion of what freedom actually is, because as far as I can see it (in the whole several minutes it took me to read this post), it’s currently restricting your choices. :p

    • Well, to be fair, it wasn’t the title I chose… [cough, cough… Dennis!… cough, cough]

      Thanks for the food for thought- your list of things that freedom “isn’t” is certainly something to ponder. Honestly, it cut close enough to give me pause- thanks.

      On the flip side, though, would you care to opine on what freedom “is”?

    • Don’t try to pin this on me! :-p

  • Darn. I was hoping the lack of a “freedom is…” sentence would go unnoticed. I did have one in there at one stage, but it turns out it was much harder for me to define succinctly.

    What I will say is that much of what is referred to in this post as going hand in hand with the concept of loss of freedom seems to really be things one is “supposed” to feel a responsibility for and/or towards – other than oneself, that is – and I don’t believe responsibility and freedom are mutually exclusive concepts. If they were, you perhaps might not consider those responsibilities to yourself (clothes + contents of your wallet << how'd they get there? 😮 ) and still retain your sense of freedom.

    That would suggest those with spouses and families are without freedom, or as much, and I warrant there are many out there who would be surprised at the thought that they lack the same freedom simply because they have people in their life that they choose to prioritise over other other things. Choice being the key.

    The sentence "I purposely hold on to nothing so that I’ll always maintain my freedom" is probably what struck out the most to me and prompted my comment. I interpret it as a narrow view of the concept of freedom. Spurning things, people, possibilities, under the notion that lacking them = freedom sounds odd to me. That actually sounds like giving up on possibilities because of a pre-conceived idea, which in turn sounds more like a constraint than freedom, because it lacks a genuine choice. Or at least removes part of the responsibility of makng them by suggesting it falls under the greater desire to simply "be free".

    I realise I could be reading much more than what is actually here, so do take my interpretations with a grain of salt – if necessary.

    I'm still lacking the all-important 'freedom is…' sentence, Disregarding the grander concept, I believe personal freedom is something most people who live in the so-called free world have, regardless of whether or not they have more than their clothes and contents of their wallet. Being the sole dictator of your choices is only part of it, but you don't lose that capacity if some of your choices are made with more than yourself in mind, or with the input of another person. That isn't tantamount to lack of or less freedom, because it's not something you *have* to do. It's something people do willingly because they have what they want, and are not driven by the fear of losing them, but because they understand what it means to love them.

    PS I feel it necessary now to apologise for my sudden, long-winded input (intrusion) here – I found myself here after a series of clicks begun elsewhere and decided I have something of great importance to say, seeing as how, on occasion and particularly at the blurry time of 2am, I hold my own opionions in high esteem. You, of course, retain the freedom to disagree, disregard or delete them entirely. 😉

  • Roped & Hog Tied

    I’m a fiercely independent 40-something. I spent my late teens, my 20s and most of my 30s wandering the world. I’d work hard on short-term projects to get the cash to shoulder my backpack and take off to somewhere new, time and time again. Relationships were nice when they came along, and several could have been long-term, but it was never a contest when it came down to it. A relationship? And stay in one or two places for the rest of my life/our lives? Forget it.

    I wasn’t running from anything. I’m just perpetually curious about what’s over the next hill. In a different age, I’d have been one of the first to volunteer to go on voyages of discovery. Five years away? Okay. Scummy food, scummy quarters, scummy company? Okay. Death, disease and a chance of being maimed? Where do I sign up?

    Women loved it in the short-term. A handful were equally free spirited and they were cool because they’d accept we were just moving along together for a time before diverging. But most women thought I was just going through a phase that would end with them. They ran a mile once they realised what they saw was what they got.

    Eventually, in my late 30s, I did meet someone who respected what I’m about. Together, we’ve managed to channel my penchant to head for the horizon into something that works for us. She, on the other hand, has learned to occasionally break loose from the comforts of suburban normality. People think we’re an odd couple living an odd life, but it works for us and that’s the main thing.

    And that would be my advice. When you meet someone who’s prepared to accept you as you are and you’re prepared to accept them as they are, work out someway of meeting in the middle ground and take it from there. Until then, just keep on keeping on.

    As for exes, the cool ones have stayed in touch, in some cases for more than 20 years, without a tinge of nastiness, reqret, bitterness, jealousy or might-have-beens. As for the others, I lost touch the moment they/I moved on. It saves a lot on postage and phone bills. 😀

  • My life in KC is fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective) enough to have been graced with a solid group of close friends…all of which are married.

    Some of them look at me in envy because of my single status and “ability to make major life changes at the drop of a hat.”

    Yes. Being responsible for only my own well being has its merit. Though I often find myself viewing their not-so-single status with envy for having a person who is emotionally invested in them.

    As you say, it’s a form of instinct. We want what we want, but we can’t fight our nature.

    We are who we are. If someone can’t accept that in you then I say that is their problem. Change should only happen when it’s for yourself. Sounds selfish, but on a certain level we make changes because we finally see what others see in us.

  • IT’S TOO LATE AT NIGHT FOR ME TO BE DEEP, OR USE PUNCTUATION ON MY PHONE, BUT I WANTED TO ADD MY 2 CENTS. IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS I’VE DATED SOME INCREDIBLE MEN. JUST REALLY AMAZING PEOPLE. THE KIND OF MEN A GIRL COULD SEE HERSELF REALLY STAYING WITH. BUT WHEN EACH RELATIONSHIP ENDED IT WAS A GIGANTIC SIGH OF RELIEF BECAUSE IT MEANT I COULD DREAM AGAIN. WHEN THE LAST BOYFRIEND ANNOUNCED HE WAS MOVING TO N. CALIFORNIA, I WAS SAD TO SEE IT END BUT EAGER TO SNAG A JOB IN AFRICA. DID I MENTION I’M TOTING ALONG A 4 YEAR OLD? FOR ME FREEDOM IS THE LIBERTY TO FALL IN LOVE WITHOUT FEAR OF THE FALL. It’s knowing that i am responsible for making my dreams a reality under any circumstances. To know how it is supposed to be done, but choose to deviate from what is expected of me to find out what really drives me. my friends and family love me for who i am, maybe someday someone else will be crazy enough to circle the globe with me yet sane enough to raise a kid. It could happen. But the greatest freedom truly is the freedom to love and not feel tied or guilty or afraid when you do.

  • Sorry to break it with you, but Bobby McGee’s future involves him always being the best ex-boyfriend and partner in crime, but no woman who is actually looking out for herself and her future will marry him until he grows up. But, on the bright side, most Bobby McGees grow up really fast when they fall in love … the only problem is they also have to realize that you can be just as, if not more, free in a relationship than you ever are alone (of course, having kids puts limits on this). You just need to find a woman who loves being spontaneous and having fun and realize that being free doesn’t mean the ability to follow whatever whim you have whenever you have it, but rather to explore every avenue of life and every aspect of yourself. Freedom is the ability to feel everything in life and learn how to be satisfied by the many things life throws at you. And, really, how can you ever truly fully explore yourself and begin to understand all your possibilities without falling in love?

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