NPR recently informed me (also noted in this article) that automobile ownership is dwindling amongst Millennials. Back in the good ‘ole days, owning a car used to signify a kind of coming-of-age freedom. With a car, you could escape for the day, for the weekend…forever. But today, people have easy access to an electronic escape with a simple tap tappy tap on their cell phone. An expensive, age-dependent, gas-guzzling automobile is no longer needed to open worlds and blow minds. The cellular telephone has replaced the automobile as the symbol of freedom.
Really? I mean, I get it, but lately I’ve been side-eyeing my phone like it’s the devil. It’s a trap! It sucks me in, shoves me in a corner and tricks me into believing life is happening behind that tiny screen, trying to prevent me from participating in the life actually happening around me. It taunts me with work emails, calendar events, flight alerts, textual messages, Facebook notifications, dinging every time the Brewers lose another game. No. My phone doesn’t add much freedom to my life.
Turns out, freedom is a different experience for everyone and you can find it in all sorts of places. I’ve most recently discovered it perched on the seat of my bicycle. I’m not that crazy avid cyclist who can change a flat in one minute, knows every moving piece of a bike and how it works, lives for hills, and wears the fancy spandex. I still cross my fingers I’ll never get a flat whilst alone, will use YouTube to walk me through it if it happens, have no idea what the derailleur actually is, even though I nod when people talk about adjusting it, still curse every hill I encounter. And I lied. I DO wear the fancy spandex. Spend any amount of time on a bicycle, and you will wear fancy spandex too. Fact.
And I don’t bike for the exercise. I mean, it’s an obvious added benefit, but you should see me on a long ride. I’m like a bobble head doll, in constant amazement of my surroundings, wanting to forever capture the cows, barns, fences, corn, trees, leaves, sky, clouds, lakes, my bicycle leaned against everything. It’s crazy how different the world looks from the seat of a slow-moving, me-powered machine.
I recently began commuting the 15 miles to work, and it’s kind of changed my life. It takes me about an hour, and in that hour, my mind is clear and focused on nothing but what is directly around me. Trees are more colorful. Water appears clearer. The birds sound prettier. Essentially, I get two hours of Me Time a day, without work, other people, the internet, left alone with nothing but my thoughts.
There’s this brilliant 20 second instrumental moment (starts at 1:54 in the actual track) of Wait So Long by Trampled with Turtles that pretty much sounds exactly like the inside of my head the majority of time. It’s this intense, release the wild banshees, organized chaotic melody that literally sends my body into mild seizure mode. But just ten seconds before, there is a calm, beautiful introduction to the chaos. And for two hours of the day while on my bicycle in my fancy spandex, my head slows down and replays these ten seconds again and again.
Maybe that’s what freedom sounds like.