Freedom: Navigating Life Beyond Expectations



"When we learn how to access the peace within us, we experience freedom independent of external circumstances."



As I reflect on what freedom means to me, I can hear Auntie playing traditional Laotian music, muffled from the bedroom beneath me. In this moment, pondering on the word, ‘freedom,’ I can’t help but think of my ancestors, imagining the lives they lived compared to the life I live now. Where I am now and how I live now…this is freedom.

Had I been born and raised in the motherland of Vietnam, my life would look different. For starters, I am a woman. As a woman of Southeast Asian descent, you are taught and expected to play a certain role, one of obedience. Following tradition would mean becoming a ‘good’ wife, bearing children, tending to the husband, and caring for the home—to cook and clean. There is no other identity outside of being a wife and a mother.

However, as second-generation immigrant woman in America, the rules and the landscape have changed drastically. The restrictive cultural “rules” that applied to just two generations before me (my grandmother) and even the one generation before me (my mother)—these rules no longer work for me.

As the first born in America, I learned early on in life that if I wanted freedom—the choice to be me, the choice to pursue my dreams, the choice to do what makes me happy, it would not come without clash.

Growing up in America, and yet in a traditional Vietnamese home with parents who survived war and genocide, we lived in survival mode. Freedom was foreign. As a child under my parents’ roof, I had to listen. I had to obey. I had to follow orders, regardless of how I felt.

I remember a time when I was a teenager, and I told my mother I wanted privacy. I can’t remember exactly what we were fighting over, but what happened next? She unscrewed my bedroom door and left the bedroom wide open. No privacy.  

As soon as I was able to leave home for college, I did. I could not wait to experience freedom. I was eager to be on my own and to make my own decisions without someone telling me “no” or “you can’t.”

It has been a lifelong journey of navigating societal and cultural “norms” and being okay with not conforming. The path to freedom has not come easy or natural, but a necessity for happiness.

As a result, here are some of my reflections on freedom:
•        Freedom is an experience that manifests both internally and externally.
•        It is a state of mind, one that remains unattached and unaffected by the material world.
•        Ultimately, freedom is the choice to honor oneself, irrespective of societal expectations or external pressures.

Where I am and how I am now in life… I have cultivated a lifestyle that allows for me to be the healer, the artist, and the coach that I am. I travel to connect, to teach, to perform, and to be of service. Most importantly, I have the freedom to think, to feel, and to do as I wish, when I want. There is a knowing that no one can deprive me of this kind of freedom. This is true freedom.

When we learn how to access the peace within us, we experience freedom independent of external circumstances.

I feel that if we wish to consciously create more freedom in communities, it must start with us first. To experience freedom, we must let go of the limiting beliefs and fears that have been passed down through generations. We must cultivate a mindset of self-love and self-worth, understanding that we are deserving of the freedom to live authentically.

By embracing our true selves and encouraging others to do the same, we pave the way for a community rooted in mutual respect and genuine connection. Together, we can build a world where freedom is not just a privilege for a few, but a shared reality for all.