Once upon a time, there was a girl.
We’ll call her Schmanjali. (*Editor’s note: this name and story are completely fictionalized so any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.) (*Editor’s second note: I’m lying.)
Schmanjali was a really fun chick, sometimes. She was pretty scared of a lot of things, but she did them anyway. She was pretty unsure of what direction she wanted to take most of the time, but she normally picked a direction and went for it anyway. She didn’t believe in “adulting” – as a concept – so she chose to just live life having the most fun possible, all the time.
Schmanjali was also a little wacky. Despite that she loved to have fun, she also had a couple of things that she felt really strongly about, that she really didn’t want to change. She was a hippie, and she believed everyone should love everyone all the time. Not so bad, right? Well, she was also fiercely protective of her own freedom, and anything she saw as hindering her freedom she dropped like a bad habit.
In short, Schmanjali was a girl that hated commitment. So she tried not to have any. She left a tied down office job, she didn’t believe in monogamy, she didn’t stay in relationships very long, and she avoided tying herself to other people at all costs.
What was interesting about Schmanjali, though, is that despite that she hated being tied to people, she actually did tie herself to people, a lot, intentionally. Schmanjali believed strongly that the only thing that matters in life is our connection to and relationships with other people. So she hated commitment – but she loved connections to others? Schmanjali liked to have a big circle of friends – not acquaintances that she spoke to once a year – but true friends that could call her at any time for anything. Schmanjali also often happily made a lot of new friends.
And Schanjali had a puppy that she loved very much. A puppy that happened to be sick with liver issues and required lots of pills every day and very specific care.
Schmanjali was also really close to her family. She had an older brother, and younger sister, and two parents who were all amazing people. And like all families do, sometimes this family went through things where they needed each other. Once, Schmanjali’s dad had to have open heart surgery, so of course, she went to be with him. And when these things happened, Schmanjali didn’t feel committed, or bound, or tied down to the needs of a family. She just felt love.
So, one day, after Schmanjali had quit her job to travel full-time, she planned a trip to South America. And she was really excited about that trip. And she made all kinds of plans and reservations and had events to go to and things to see. And she couldn’t wait.
But then, a wrench: just before the trip, Schmanjali fell in love. And she freaked out, because she thought romantic love and relationships always meant feeling tied down. But then something interesting happened: the man Schmanjali fell in love with told her that he loved her because she loved her freedom, not in spite of it. And he told her nothing about how he felt about her would change, so that she should continue being her and going on trips and being happy in whatever way she wanted and he would still love her, even if they weren’t together. And he told her that even if she chose not to be in a relationship with him (because she didn’t really like traditional relationships), he would still intensely value and love her and be happy that she existed.
Schmanjali had never heard that before. Normally, men wanted her to commit, immediately and without reservation. And when she didn’t want to, they didn’t even want her as a friend. So she had learned to be skeptical and she had learned to hate commitment even more. But this man reacted way differently than anyone ever had before.
So Schmanjali was surprised: she didn’t think it was possible to be in love but also still feel free. But she was happily surprised. So she kept planning her trip and looking forward to it excitedly.
Then, another wrench, this time bigger: Schmanjali’s baby sister got hurt. And she had to have a second surgery for her hurt, right before Schmanjali’s South America trip. And it didn’t go so well, so when she got out, she couldn’t walk. For about four weeks. And Schmanjali realized that she wasn’t going to end up taking her South America trip.
So, she cancelled it.
But Schmanjali didnt feel bad. She felt a little bummed, perhaps, but she didn’t feel suffocated or bound or committed. She had never had to cancel a trip for anyone else before, but still, she didn’t mind it. She realized she’d rather be at home with her baby sister, while she healed, getting to spend time with her family as they all dealt with this crappy situation.
And when she realized all of this, Schmanjali also realized that she had been looking at everything like an immature child.
Freedom, of course, would always be Shmanjali’s number one value. That, likely, would never change. But Schmanjali thought she was living life by avoiding commitment as much as possible. She hadn’t – she was wrong. She had actually been living life committed to a lot of things, and a lot of people, and a lot of plans for the future with those things and people. And puppy.
So at some point, she realized that freedom didn’t mean a lack of commitment. Freedom just meant the ability to choose your path, and sometimes, your path included lots of commitments to lots of people. Not because they demanded it. Just because you loved them fiercely.
Schmanjali’s path of commitment may never again include being tied to stupid shit – like a 9-to-5 job or soul-sucking tradition. But it would likely include commitment to other humans and animals, and maybe even traditions that she dressed up and made her own.
So is it an unfortunate cliche that a life of travel often means you discover more about yourself than about foreign destinations? Yes, probably. But is the self-discovery also really important? Yes, probably.
Schmanjali figured that out somewhere along the way.
And then did she live happily ever after, no matter what life threw at her?
*Editor’s note: The End.