The internet has brought light to many different holidays, from National Donut Day to World Penguin Day and everything in between. Today, we’re honoring a holiday that has a far reaching significance to both groups and individuals.

April 27th is celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa, commemorating the first post-apartheid elections in 1994. On the first anniversary of this holiday, Nelson Mandela stated,

“Few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us.”

The term freedom can mean different things to different people. For those who have never felt trapped, “freedom” is a broad word. To be free, unrestrained, unbound, allowed. But, for anyone who has lived under a grand sense of restraint, the meaning of the word freedom digs deeper. 

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Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.

When we are denied freedom, our growth as human beings is being stifled. Suppressed. Denied. For South Africans under the apartheid regime, freedom was determined by the color of your skin. In other instances around the globe, individuals are being denied their freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom to marry the person they love. Bound by rules, laws, and judgements; there is a hell on earth that exists, and it is a life without freedom.

But freedom isn’t strictly systematic. Freedom, or lack there of, can exist in relationships. Abusive partners, denying their supposed loved one the freedom to enjoy life. To enjoy love. Preoccupations with materialistic wealth, or visions of success, rob an individual of the freedom to live their life in a way that is altruistic. Mental illness, denying their host-body the freedom of a clear mind.

Freedom isn’t free.

If you believe in something, you fight like hell for it. Nelson Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred, and bitterness behind that I would still be in prison.” Freedom begins within. You cannot conquer the outer world until you are free within the world that you have created for yourself. Your mindset. Your attitude.

As I sit here, and proudly practice my right to the freedom of speech, I think back on a life I once lived that wasn’t so free. It was a life of being controlled and manipulated, with freedom being the light at the end of the tunnel- but it always seemed too far to reach. But I fought, and I trekked, further and further, until I escaped the cage in which I was once held prisoner.

Today I celebrate my own freedom. I celebrate the freedom of my Mom, and my Sister. I celebrate the freedom of South Africans in their equality of voting rights. But mostly, I am celebrating the freedom of every single individual who knows what it feels like to fight like hell for what they know is right. What is just. What is free. 

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