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  • There was a time in my life when I didn't know I couldn't do anything I wanted to do. I would frequently 'run away' as my mother called it, but I wasn't running away from anything, merely I would take a notion into my head that I would go do something and I went and did it without telling an adult or asking permission or considering that it might be dangerous or that anyone might want to stop me.

    I let myself out of the babysitters house one morning to go home early, my parents astonished and horrified to be knocked out of bed and answer the front door to find their child in her pajamas on the front step announcing I'd come home now. I let myself out of my own house one morning to go pick flowers in the park, I got as far as the middle of the main road roundabout where I got stranded by fast cars until my father came to find me sitting there fed up, this time wearing only the top half of my pajamas and an unbuttoned dressing gown... I left my mother's place of work one day to go visit my fathers place of work. I didn't know where that was but I didn't consider a little thing like that should stop me... I was found once on a coach headed for the seaside until the passengers realised I didn't belong to anyone.. the final time was when I wandered into a sweet shop without any money and stood 'choosing' hoping the shop keeper would be nice enough to offer me a free sweet until the man, realising I was alone, called the police.

    My parents sound very irresponsible from this story but in fact they weren't, there were no end of locks and bolts and gates set to confound my expeditions. I was though a very independent child, and a resourceful one, led by their own free spirits which I'd inherited, and I'd worked out how to climb up and open locks, where keys were kept and the way that securities put in place to prevent my escape worked so that I was able to circumvent them when I wanted to. It never seemed to stick in my mind that I wasn't supposed to do this because it wasn't safe and it certainly never registered that I wasn't allowed to make my own mind up. I just did what I wanted when I wanted to. Freedom assumed.

    My poor mother and father had, in despair, drilled into me my name and address so I was, whenever lost or in difficulty able to explain who I was and where I was from and my distraught parents would be called for. The thing that really ended it was the police bringing me home. I remember the trip back with the policeman in his car and how he had finally gotten across to me the severity of my actions, the upset it was causing my parents and the danger I posed to myself. He'd removed me from the sweet shop without any sweets and had a chocolate bar on his dashboard that I would have liked a piece of and he didn't open it and offered me none. Rightly so, but at the time I didn't think so and rather disliked him for it. I took his words to me seriously though and for the first time considered maybe I shouldn't have done what I did. In any case, being alone and at the mercy of an unobliging policeman didn't seem very fun at all and I didn't fancy being in that situation again.

    After that I found my freedoms in other, less dangerous ways, and though I'm still stubborn about doing things that I really don't want to do, it's been a long time since I was as free as I was in childhood. When I took this picture of a child and recognised the abandonment to utter free will and autonomy in his actions, I could have cried for the want of it.

    Freedom, for all adults, is the one thing in life that none of us get to completely keep.. we make the most of those moments that feel free.. or that contain an illusion of freedom, and perhaps we value freedom all the more because of it's scarce nature, but we know at heart that our moments of freedom and abandon as adults will never again be the way this child is. This free.
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