The Price of Freedom

Freedom always has a price.

Marjane Satrapi ends Persepolis 2 with these words. She turns around, looks at her grandmother for one last time before boarding her plane to Europe. At that moment, she says “This was the last time I saw my grandmother. She died six months later.”, adding “Freedom always has a price.”

Last weekend, when my friend came to visit me, I began to think about why I moved to the United States. Education? American dream? A better career? All of them contributed to my final decision, but the most important was my desire to feel free again. I can’t say I escaped, because I always build tests for myself about when to return to Turkey: “If the outcome of the Referendum is no, I’ll go back for the summer.” “After the next general election, I will return.” “When the old politicians (You-Know-Who) die, I’ll move back.” If I wanted to escape, I’d probably never look back instead of pondering like this.

When the problems I face here intensify, like finances, having no family, feeling of weakness, I remind myself this: “Freedom always has a price.” Understandably, not everyone is willing to pay it: Having a 10-hour difference between your two lives, giving up your family and friends, missing the important moments, being forgotten over time and turning into mere memories, seeing your friends having fun without you at your favorite place on a Friday night, when you were just enjoying your beer and watching a movie, your loved ones having no time to Skype you…

Is it worth it, though, giving up all of this? Like all my friends, I could have easily landed a job at an international firm at the heart of Istanbul with an average salary. I could have gone to any restaurant and eaten a huge plate of kebab. I would have had my mom’s meals for the evening. Not a bad life, eh? I had been thinking about this since last week, until I finally realized this: I choose to stay here every second I stay here. I can just buy a ticket to Istanbul right now but I don’t, because I choose my life here. Maybe this is why I have the blues, the shame as if I abandoned everyone somewhere deep inside.

When the blues do not come to the surface (a.k.a. the week of my PMS/period), I have glimpses of why I choose the freedom here: cars yielding to me, the smiling bus driver, to be able to write “I hate Tayyip!” on Facebook, to be able to walk on a dark alley in the middle of night, to be able to join protests without fearing for my security or life…

But do these balance out what I lost by coming here? Maybe some of you are asking this to yourselves if you are on the brink of making the same choice I did. Sadly, it is impossible to simply calculate this, as there is no true way to measure the worth of spiritual wealth. But there is one criterion: How much do I value my freedom? I was not aware before, but apparently I value mine pretty much, thinking everything I attempted and all the risks I took to come here.

Now that I have found the answer to this question, I am seeking the answer to another one. And it is so important that it may redefine who I want to be for the rest of my life: What do I value so much that I can give up my freedom for it?

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