The dictionary defines freedom as a state in which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses without being subject to any undue restraints or restrictions. At age 65, that’s exactly how I define it. As an African American woman, a native of Louisiana, life has not always given me such liberty and independence.
You could say I’ve had an interesting life.
In my early years as a sharecropper’s daughter, I was overburdened with hard work. As a teenager, I felt imprisoned by the strict guidance of my parents and grandparents. We were religious folks, not allowed to dance, party or spend time in idleness. I felt enslaved. I couldn’t wait to get away from home and see the bright lights of the city.
Sure enough, the time came when I gained my freedom from the farm and the demands of family and church. I thought getting married would allow me to do the things I wanted. Boy was I wrong! I found myself unable to escape a domineering husband. For years I felt like a slave again. I thought I would never be free.
Eventually, I was able to get a divorce. But freedom was short lived.
I entered a second marriage. I sensed liberation, so I indulged in many frivolous things. I got my household into debt. I bought everything I thought I wanted, not knowing that a rainy day was coming. When my husband got ill, we had to close our business. I ended up in bankruptcy court shortly before he died. I was living as a sharecropper again. This time, the “boss man” was the harassing bill collector.
My freedom finally came when all of my debts were erased. I vowed to avoid debt and have kept my promise. I learned to be satisfied with the provisions God made. My emancipation comes when I wake up in the morning. Not being anxious or stressed by debts and obligations is sheer freedom. A clear conscience and right relationship with God bring relief from worries.
The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online.Morena Caleb is a reader from Fenton, La.