Finding freedom in limitation

The pandemic has opposed a lot of limits to our everyday life. Many people have been feeling limited by the consequences. The word limit usually implies something negative. That there is a point after which we cannot progress. And progress is what gives people meaning in life. Progress means that there is always something new waiting for us. That no matter which situation we’re in, we will go on to a further stage with new challenges and delightful moments.

Our world has gotten fewer and fewer limits. You have unlimited choices of places to visit, people to meet, entertainment to consume, subjects to study. We are bombarded with information that wants our attention through every webinar, YouTube channel, podcast, self-published book, blog (like this one ;)), magazine, Netflix show…

The pandemic has shifted this situation a little. We became limited in where we could go, what we could purchase and who we could spend time with.

We started feeling a limit in our personal freedom.

Freedom has turned into my most significant value over the years. I’ve wanted to be free of anything and anyone ever since I set out into the world, ready to become an endless explorer. Traveling limitless across the globe, I felt like the world was my home, and there would be no limit to where I could be and what I could explore.
This sounded like a perfectly sound idea when I started. However, it didn’t make me as happy as I had anticipated. On the contrary, I became restless, feeling FOMO in ‘countries I haven’t visited yet’ and ‘languages I don’t speak yet.’ Chasing country after country, language after language, I never found rest. There was never an ‘I have made it’ moment – because there were no limits as to how much as I could explore
(sure there are limits to the language and countries, but that’d be far-fetched to say that I would get to that).

This realization left me depressed. It felt like running after a goal that moved further and further away, the more you chased after it. The more you see, the more you realize you haven’t seen. And the more languages you learn and speak and dive into the world of polyglots, the more you notice that you’re only scratching the tip of the iceberg.

The pandemic has been a blessing to me in this regard. Knowing that moving around the globe is not encouraged and partly impossible has given me a feeling of inner peace. I am not necessarily in the country I was hoping to be, but that is not what makes this any less satisfying. I am feeling a limit in my vagabond lifestyle, and I sincerely appreciate the experience of it. I have spent more time inside reading and writing the last months than ever. Knowing that there was nowhere to go, no coffee shop to hang out it, no meetup to socialize with people at, no ‘store’ to check out, no ‘off-the-beaten-path destination’ to check out has been liberating. I found real freedom in that limitation. This limitation freed me from thinking I ‘should’ be at other places and wasn’t OK where I was. Instead, I looked at what was right in front of me and made the most of it. Sure, I felt lonely and bored at times. But somehow, overall, I was glad that I finally had something that put boundaries to my moving around.

I have noticed things that had been right close to me that I would have never noticed if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. My family and how similar we are. My friends whom I know from before I set out into the world and who still keep in touch. Living in an area that I used to call ‘my second home’ when I was a child. A job that gives me something valuable to occupy my time with. Less social obligations that make me turn back to connecting with my friends all over the world.

What has this limitation taught you? Have you been limited in a way that felt very frustrating, but that led you to discover something unexpected?

Progress is inevitable, and as we have seen, the scope of the pandemic’s limitation has been moving back and forth. I am trying to see the current restrictions as a sort of intervention to make me reflect on my current path and to see a more limited version of it, something I had always wholly been against.

As with every concept, there is always an opposite side to it. Maybe this is a suitable time to see what we can make out of the limits that have been ‘imposed’ onto us.

If you have ever done a guided meditation against anxiety, you will most likely have run across this sentence: You are OK, right where you are. This statement had always seemed quite vain to me. This year and the more the pandemic stays part of our life, the more I am finding some truth in this sentence. It isn’t speaking about an absolute limit but about the moment in time that we’re finding ourselves in. There might be a limit right now, but it is OK to be in it.

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