Looking at the title of my blog, I began to wonder what a free spirit is, exactly. I know the stereotype in the movies: Summer from (500) Days of Summer, or Sharon Stone’s character in The Muse, or Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’m not really like any of those women though, so there’s got to be more to it, right? (Also, what about the free spirit men? Why can’t I think of any movies about them? Help me out in the comments, please.)
I turned to the internets to help me out. Apparently, a free spirit is someone who is not restrained, for instance by convention or obligation. Or it’s someone who has a highly individual or unique attitude, lifestyle, or imagination. Or it’s someone acting freely or even irresponsibly (I guess that’s where the practical part of my blog title comes in?) All the definitions agree on one synonym to describe a free spirit: nonconformist.
Oh, right. Thank you, dictionaries everywhere, for reminding me what I’m talking about.
Here’s my definition of what it means to be a free spirit:
- A free spirit thinks for himself, observing and collecting data in order to form his own opinions.
- A free spirit does what she thinks is right, not what everyone else tells her is right. She puts a high value on free choice.
- A free spirit cares about getting to know both himself and the world around him.
- A free spirit isn’t generally swayed by arguments of what one is “supposed” to do. She tends to avoid, ignore, or become upset by people who are judgmental or controlling.
- A free spirit has the courage to test life’s boundaries and limits, and to try things that other people think are impossible, unimportant, or impractical. (These other people are often wrong.)
- A free spirit often has her own unique vision of life and the world.
This does not mean a free spirit is a trampler, i.e. the kind of person who doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. Nor are all free spirits incapable of compromise and discussion. They aren’t inherently flighty or irresponsible or train wrecks on wheels. Free spirits can be any of these things, just like everyone else, but they don’t have to be.
I also suspect there are those to whom free spiritedness comes easy, and those for whom it’s very difficult. Or maybe there are just people like me who swing back and forth between the ease and the struggle. There are noisy free spirits and quiet free spirits, extroverts and introverts and ambiverts, free spirits who engage in risqué behavior and those who think risqué is passé and so go to the other extreme. (Ask me sometime why my ears aren’t pierced and you’ll see what I mean.) Some of us are stubborn while others are fickle, some of us are dedicated while others drift from thing to thing. We can be challenging, yes, and difficult to understand, but we love life with a passion that makes it all seem worthwhile.
Whatever our shortcomings, we make the world a more varied and interesting place. We are agents of change and opponents of inertia. As Arthur O’Shaughnessy, a 19th century British poet, said:
We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.