Streaking and Other Forms of Freedom

Last Saturday night, at approximately 9:28 p.m., my best friend and I ran down a dark path completely naked. This was not my first experience streaking, but it was hers, and it was glorious.

Ten minutes earlier, we sat in her car in a parking lot contemplating what the night might present. We had already devoured sushi and coconut ice cream, so we were energized and prepared for adventure. The rain pelted her sunroof and she considered opening it to see what would happen, but ultimately valued the function of her possessions over the unknown of the experiment.

“You know, I’ve never just laid in the street in the rain before,” she said. “Like that’s something I’ve never experienced.”

“Let’s do it,” I replied, then added, “Naked.” We laughed, but then the conversation continued. Eventually, we agreed that streaking was an excellent idea, so we drove to an unlit bike path with racing hearts.

After several minutes of coaxing and pep talks, we were off and running. We danced and hollered and revelled in our freedom before ducking back into the car fully clothed and giggling. Three minutes later, a group of people strolled by completely unaware of the scene they had narrowly missed and our adrenaline escalated once again.

The rest of the night naturally progressed into a Beyonce dance party and I fell asleep feeling more exhilarated and free than I had in weeks.

The whole concept of personal freedom has occupied a significant portion of my brain space lately. Between school, running and relationships, I often feel that my ability to exist in my preferred free state is virtually impossible. In typical stubborn fashion, I struggle to accept anything less than that and blame the world for my lack of internal content. Obviously, it is completely my own fault, but I live for moments and stories, and the best of these occur when I am entirely uninhibited by societal expectations.

I tell myself that amid midterms and responsibilities I simply cannot reach adequate freedom and must wait until summer to capture these moments. I have become obsessed with songs that confirm this. Songs like Free by Rudimental and Cactus Tree by Joni Mitchell that figuratively stab me in the heart. I firmly believe in this lack of freedom most of the time. Except when I prove myself wrong, like Saturday night. Because in that moment, I thought of nothing but the steady rain and the glowing moon enveloping me in the infinite night.

In all honesty, I will never be as free as I want. The only way to achieve this would be to follow in Chris McCandless’s footsteps and abandon everything. But I cannot do that, or at least not right now. I value the people in my life too much. I enjoy too many benefits from my academic and athletic time commitments. And I am too happy in the situation that is presently my life.

So for right now, I will accept the freedom that I find in my life’s snapshots for everything it entails. I will frolic naked in the rain; I will spontaneously pierce my ear; I will dance unrestricted at concerts; and I will savor every one of these moments with all of my senses. Because when I can be that free, I want to remember every detail.

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Christmas Without Santa

Identical to every Christmas Eve, Adam climbed into bed at precisely 10 p.m. and forced his eyes shut, determined to sleep before Santa arrived at his suburban home. All the familiar feelings flooded his mind–anticipation, glee, curiosity–but an anxiety lingered that he could not shake. Though he had clearly not done anything terribly wrong all year, the uncomfortable possibility that Santa might again skip his house tainted his thoughts. By some terrible twist of fate, the jolly old man had not delivered any presents in the seven years since Adam had moved to McGuire Street with his family. Adam spent hours contemplating this tragedy but still could not fathom any reason other than Santa’s own error. After all, their home had an ideal roof, plenty of sweets and even a roomy chimney.

xmas house

It simply had to be Santa’s fault and not his own; after 30 straight years of presents–even with questionable behavior–Santa could not possibly deem Adam unworthy.

xmas adam

While Adam mourned his own lack of presents silently, he felt terrible for his daughter Elizabeth, who in her seven years of life had not once experienced Santa. Every year Adam assured Elizabeth that on Christmas Eve night Santa would fill the living room with presents and every year Elizabeth awoke to an emptiness only partially filled by Adam’s own gifts for his daughter.

xmas living room

Of course it did not help that Adam’s wife had died in a car accident shortly following their move into the new house, which left Adam alone to care for his young child with only an accountant’s salary to help. Adam budgeted what he could to purchase gifts for his daughter but without Santa’s generosity his attempts were in vain; nothing could match the magical mornings with which he had grown up.

______

The week before, Elizabeth had revealed to her classmate Leah that she did not expect much that Christmas.

xmas chat

Leah immediately fell into a laughter broken only by Elizabeth’s pleas for an explanation.

“You actually believe that?” Leah said, “All that Santa mumbo-jumbo?”

“Of course,” Elizabeth said.

Leah chuckled again and leaned closer to Elizabeth. “I know a secret,” she said, “Santa isn’t real.” This time Elizabeth laughed. Santa not real? The thought was absurd.

“I’m serious,” Leah said, “It’s all fake. I watched my parents put out presents last year but they were all supposed to be from ‘Santa.’ There’s no way he’s real.”

Elizabeth stared back in bewilderment for several seconds while she carefully dissected Leah’s proposition. According to her father, Santa had stopped delivering presents only when he had begun to spend Christmas away from his parents. Her mother had never been alive for a Christmas with her so following Leah’s theory it would be Adam’s sole responsibility to provide presents from “Santa.” Elizabeth’s jaw dropped.

“My dad believes in Santa,” she said, “But he’s wrong. Santa was never real.” Once she recovered from her initial shock, Elizabeth began to form a plan in her mind. She spent the next six days focusing solely on her Christmas plan. Every day after school she went to her room, dragged the craft box from her closet and worked diligently until bedtime. During the day her mind raced with new ideas and at night she slept soundly from exhaustion. She thought of nothing but Christmas morning until the day finally arrived.

xmas elizabeth

Adam’s eyes shot open the second Elizabeth entered his room.

“Wake up Daddy,” she said, “It’s Christmas!” A familiar rush flowed through his body and his heart fluttered with excitement.

“I’ll meet you downstairs,” he said before pulling on his favorite reindeer pajamas and hurriedly brushing his teeth. The anxiety from the night before remained, but nothing could falter his Christmas spirit. Minutes later, he descended the stairs hoping to see anything but the scene he had arranged the previous night.

“He came, Daddy,” Elizabeth said, “Santa came!”

Adam turned the corner to a sea of color and glitter that filled his heart with a joy he had not known for seven years. Feebly wrapped presents spilled from beneath the tree while the two hanging stockings threatened to fall from their weight. Sparkles littered the floor and directed his eyes to the gifts’ labels which read “From: Santa” in suspiciously youthful handwriting. He glanced at his daughter, whose glitter-laden face bore a smile so pure he could not help but grin in return.

xmas final

The two immediately got to work unwrapping presents. Elizabeth eagerly fed gifts to her father, who discovered that Santa had chosen a distinctively homemade route that year. The room soon filled with crumpled wrapping paper and construction paper masterpieces disturbed only by the occasional beaded creation. When they reached the last present, a doll for Elizabeth from Adam himself, Elizabeth beamed and reached under the table.

“Wait Daddy,” she said, “I have one more present for you.” She handed him a small piece of construction paper and his eyes filled with tears as he read the carefully crafted words.

“Thank you,” he said, “Thank you for a perfect Christmas.”

xmas poem