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Culture

You don’t know what freedom is until it’s gone

Editor’s Note: The Forward’s Youth Writing Contest is asking middle and high school students to submit essays, short stories and poems on the topic “What It Means To Be Free.” We’re still accepting entries at essays@forward.com — you can find the entry guidelines here.The deadline is Friday, May 1. Today, we’re proud to publish this essay by Sivon Feinberg, a 6th grade student at Community Day School in Pittsburgh. We’ll be publishing more exciting new voices soon. You can find some of them here.

Freedom is a word with so many meanings. A word so many people risk their lives fighting for. A word that caused so many wars and, yet at the same time, so much happiness. It’s made up of seven insignificant letters that, when put together, is one of the most significant words in the world. A word that causes so much joy in peoples’ lives. In the end, no matter what it means to a certain person, it is a word, everyone hopes for. What is freedom? What does it mean to be free?

A month or two ago I could do whatever I pleased. If I wanted to see a friend all I had to do was ask my mom or dad and then I’d be able to see my friends. If I wanted to go to the movies or an amusement park on the weekend I could. I could go out for dinner with my family when I wanted to. I felt free to do anything. I felt like I was able to control my life. One moment everything was perfectly fine and then suddenly everything changed and my perfect carefree world turned upside down. Before I had all the freedom in the world and then when COVID 19 hit us things plummeted. My seemingly abundant freedom faded away until I was left with very little freedom. The little amount of freedom I have now makes me value it so much more. I learned that freedom is something you can lose. My parents talk about coronavirus in other countries. Some countries don’t let people go more than 100 feet from their house. I think to myself how lucky I am because at least I have more freedom than these people. Freedom allows you to be happy. It lets you do things you enjoy and makes your life worth living. Even though I am stuck in my house I am able to go outside and exercise.

Sivon Feinberg

Contestant: Sivon Feinberg is a 6th grade student at Community Day School in Pittsburgh. Image by Courtesy of Sivon Feinberg

To me, freedom is being able to do what you choose. It is being able to decide how my life goes and where it will lead me. Right now we are in the midst of a global pandemic. I can’t leave my house unless I wear a mask, and I can’t visit with my friends. COVID 19 is taking peoples’ freedom away. This year I was supposed to have my first spring dance. I was supposed to go to Florida. Two weeks ago was when my mom fully decided we were not going to Florida. We’d thought about driving there since the airplanes were closed and visiting my grandparents. It was all a dream. Once coronavirus got very bad we knew we couldn’t go to Florida because of the chance of infecting our grandparents. My mom looked so sad that she couldn’t travel — just like me. This didn’t seem fair. Traveling is something I really enjoy. When I wasn’t able to travel any more it made me really upset. It made me feel like they decided that they hadn’t taken enough of my freedom and needed more.

Freedom means doing something great with your life no matter your origins. It means not letting something hold you back. I used to be busy. I had swim team four days a week for one hour and thirty minutes to two hours. I had a dance class once a week. I had tennis on Sundays and piano lessons as well. They were all taken. My last day of real school was a Friday. The teachers were telling us that we probably wouldn’t have school come Monday. It made me sad to think about but at least I would still have all my activities, I thought. During dinner that day my mom got an email. They closed the JCC. That meant no more swim team or dance. Over time my other activities faded away until I had nothing left to do and I was lonely and bored. I worry about not going to summer camp this year which is really important. Not having the same freedom I used to have is super difficult. I feel like if I go to my friend’s house that I will be sent to jail. I feel as if I am imprisoned in my own house. My family and I can only leave our house to exercise or to go to the supermarket. I can’t do anything I want to do.

A few days ago I went on a bike ride with my mom, brother, and my one quarantine friend. We stopped for lunch in a park and there was a park ranger. My mom seemed scared and said, “don’t speak if he comes near; I’ll do the talking.” It made me worried. It made me feel as if I’d be shunned for going outside even though I was allowed to. Coronavirus is taking away people’s freedom bit by bit. First, it was not going to school, then no friends, and then being stuck at home. This isn’t really freedom. Freedom is being able to do what you want and being able to do things that make you happy.

Freedom has many different meanings. To be free means to have nothing holding you back. It means having nothing to stop you from doing what you want or you believe. In other words, to do anything you would like. To be free means that no one should judge you for being different or not knowing something that might be obvious. I think it means making your own choices and being the one who decides where your life takes you.

The amount of freedom you have can go down or up very quickly. Freedom is precious and important. Even when you lose some of your freedom you need to search for the bit you have so you can enjoy your life. I look forward to be doing the things I enjoy once again. I look forward to having all the freedom I had before back.

Sivon Feinberg is a 6th grader at Community Day School in Pittsburgh.

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