It’s 8:30pm on a Tuesday night and it’s 32 degrees. My child has just gone to her dads and I have the urge to get in my car and drive, with the windows down, the one hour it takes to get to my favourite beach, and dive in. I want to go alone, to be with myself. I want to lay on the sand underneath the stars and breathe.
But when I get there it’s dark. There are a few people around, but I begin to question my decision. Is it safe to be here? In the water, I can barely catch my breath – that is how frightened I am. I can’t relax, enjoy the moment. In moments like this, where my fear takes over, I’m reminded of my past.
When I was young, the news played in my household religiously. My parents migrated to a foreign land from a tiny island where people slept with their doors open. Of course they were scared. But their cautions every time I left the house as a young adult still play in my mind: ta matia sou thekatesera – have fourteen eyes – when you are out, watch everything around you like you have fourteen eyes. I’ve carried this caution into my adulthood, but is it good for me? Is it stopping me from enjoying the moments that count?
Their cautions every time I left the house as a young adult still play in my mind: ta matia sou thekatesera.
Pubs were full of drunks and yobbos, not a place for a young woman to be at, so I didn’t go to pubs when I turned eighteen. Instead I went to clubs for dancing. I married young, again, out of fear that I had to find someone to look after me, to protect me from the world.
When my marriage ended some ten years later, it was like tearing apart not only from the culture that kept me tied down but from the fear attached to it. I even stopped being religious as this too fed my fear (you must believe in God and go by his rules or you’ll go to hell). Suddenly I was at pubs, at gigs on my own, catching the tram on my own at 1am, walking down my street at 2am.
But when Jill Meagher was raped and killed in 2012 not too far from where I live, suddenly I was zapped back to my past fear. I couldn’t walk down my street at night. No way. But I was heartbroken for my freedom that I struggled so hard to attain as a woman. Did I have to give it back? Surrender it because of this terrible crime?
Being the free-spirited woman I have always dreamed to be is everything to me. But how do I keep her while at the same time be vigilant? How do I balance the two? Is it safe to live your life fearless and free?
Being the free-spirited woman I have always dreamed to be is everything to me. But how do I keep her while at the same time be vigilant?
This question comes up every time I pick up my mobile phone. Constantly being connected to work and people can sometimes give me anxiety. I just want to go out without it and be free, without the unsettling feeling I could be interrupted. For example I like riding to the gym, without my phone. Is it safe? Am I stupid for going out without my phone? What if I fall off my bike? Or say I want to go out with my friends without my phone, so I can give them my full attention. But what if I get abducted on the way home? But am I trading my freedom for some anxiety in the odd chance that something might happen?
Or on hot nights, I have no air con, but I can’t sleep with my windows open because someone might crawl in. Am I being overcautious? It does happen. Or I’m out one night and I meet a guy that I really connect with and I want to go home with him. Is that safe? If I want to do it, why can’t I? As women, are we so chained to our fear we aren’t living? Where is the line? Should we live our lives fearless and free or just accept that we can’t?
For me, it’s a constant battle navigating this line. Lately, I am throwing more caution to the wind. I don’t know if that’s safe, but I’m happy to take my chances in exchange for being the free-spirited woman I want to be. But I won’t walk down my street at night anymore. I drive instead.
Koraly Dimitriadis is a freelance columnist, poet, makes film and theatre and is the author of Love and F**k Poems.
Image courtesy of Flickr/ Mitya Ku.