The first time I backrolled from our bangka into the water – a 30-pound scuba tank strapped onto me – I was afraid my overthinking would get the best of me: Would I have enough oxygen to last me through the dive? What if I forget my technique? What if I lose sight of my group?
But as I plunged into the water – a good 60 feet down under – the deep blue waters calmed me; the sound of the bubbles washed my anxieties away; and the patches of cool against my suit felt (ironically) like a warm hug. Worries of how to properly equalize, breathe, stay buoyant, and even my non-underwater problems were the last things on my mind…
All I could think about and all I knew was: I was nowhere else but in the moment. I felt so free, and I loved every single bit of it.
Because I know I’m not able to scuba dive any time I please, I sought to find more ways to escape, be present, and free myself of any and all worries through once-in-a-lifetime moments, as well as through the little snippets of everyday life. And so I asked my friends: What makes you feel most free?
“Escaping city life at the beach”
It’s my constant reminder that the world is a beautiful place. I enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and I realize work doesn’t really matter in order to be happy. It’s that feeling that makes me not want to leave. And that is what’s most freeing for me: the absence of thinking, “I wanna get out of here.” —Lisa Perlada
“Working from home”
As a corporate girl, I feel most free when I work at home because I can navigate how to work around my schedule. I’m able to work efficiently, and at the same time squeeze in chores, a quick workout, or even a breather throughout the workday – all while delivering the same output as if I were at work. —Bea Ignacio
“Going on airplane mode”
I used to always want to be connected and online; and I’d feel bad if I wasn’t reachable after 6 p.m. And while the always-on culture is something I still have to unlearn, I delight in switching to airplane mode because of the feeling of absolute freedom and no responsibilities.
While it seems like a privilege – or even a dream – to go off the grid, I’m happy to be able to do it on the weekends. And that goes for both work and social obligations. —Carmela Ramirez
“The feeling of floating”
I feel free when I’m relaxed – and floating in water does just that for me. It lets me drown out the outside noise, as well as problems I constantly think about. It brings me levity and light. —Paula Casas
“Driving to anywhere”
We spent most of the last two years locked up at home – and living in an apartment with four people plus pets didn’t really give me a lot of breathing room. Driving for the first time since then was literal freedom. Now, driving, even if I don’t get out of the car, still is freeing, because even a homebody like me needs to get out to go places sometimes. —Aly Tan
“Doing a grocery run”
I recently moved out, and going to the grocery after work to prepare something I’m craving in a space I can call my own brings me joy. It’s like a romcom: I cook my meal while dancing around, a glass of wine in hand. It’s in moments like this that I realize I’m where I want to be: free, independent, and happy. —Cana Guanio
“Eating out alone”
As a woman who feels insecure about her body, I get stressed over eating with others. When I dine out by myself, I don’t have to think about how they would view my eating habits, be restricted by their budgets, or worry about keeping the conversation going.
Eating alone helps me create a safe space to explore my rocky relationship with food, and feel the comforting joy of being with myself. —Andrea Atienza
“Running new routes”
Running new routes makes me feel free – it shows me things I don’t get to see when traveling in a car; it’s never boring; and it gives me a sense of adventure. It takes me away from my daily med school grind, and helps me find myself after a long and stressful day. I’m able to clear my head and rid it of negativity and tiredness. —Alex Vergara
I always tend to feel rushed and anxious because of work, but in the pottery studio, I feel I can just get creative – something I’m not able to do at my job. Pottery has become meditative for me: it taught me to love each of my creations and to be pleasantly surprised with all outcomes. —Valeria Orona
“Making art for myself”
My family has always been artistic, so getting into graphic design was a clear-cut choice. I accepted commissions, yet I felt pressured to adhere to certain standards – so much so that after a while, I stopped accepting commissions altogether.
Just last year, I started making art for myself again and I felt genuinely happy. There was no pressure; just me enjoying the process of doing what I love and making mistakes along the way. —Pei Pica
When I lift weights, I discover what my body can do. There’s no limit to how it can move, what it can learn, and how it can grow. I am the only one who can control it, and how I choose to move every day is what makes it liberating. It’s me taking control of my body, and doing what nobody else can do for me. —Kyla Gancayco
“Leaving everything familiar”
In the middle of the pandemic, I quit my job and moved to France to pursue my master’s degree. Despite it being challenging, it felt freeing to be forced out of my comfort zone – from learning the language, getting accustomed to a new culture, making new friends, and even learning to love my own company.
Moving to the other side of the world may have been overwhelming, but it’s definitely my most fulfilling and liberating experience. —Thea Quiambao
“Realizing how small I am in the greater scheme of things”
I usually experience these moments through traveling – my favorite being a hot air balloon ride. These make me realize that I’m one person among billions who has her own story, and can live the way I want to.
I even feel it in smaller moments too, like looking at the stars. I find these humbling and freeing because they remind me of how to just be: a small person in this big, big world, who can live out my own story according to what makes me happy. —Trixi Ruiz