What almost shattering my Grandfather’s door taught me about Power & Freedom

I am three years old, throwing an ashtray across my grandfather’s living room.

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself. To be completely honest, I didn’t plan on writing this story today, or at all. But when I was out running this morning, fragments of it started coming to me. By the time I got back, I knew I wanted to talk about power and freedom: understanding it, when you have it, and when you don’t. Because unfortunately, many people that I meet, including some close friends, aren’t fully embracing freedom in their lives.

Are you? What could your life look like if you were?

When I was about three years old, my family and I visited my grandparents in California. I loved spending time with them; and my grandmother, who grew up in France, was especially warm and loving. Just being around her was a comforting feeling. I’m sure you know the feeling. With her around, everything would always be OK. There was simply no doubt. And she was pretty easygoing, as well.

My grandfather was different. Having grown up in Brooklyn during the 1930s (and without a mother), his personality had adapted to survive in those unique circumstances. Thankfully, he hadn’t lost touch with his sense of empathy; but like a layer of old bark around a redwood, there was a layer of toughness around it. (Overall though, it was pretty remarkable how well he turned out given his unique childhood.) But even though his bark was worse than his bite, his bark was basically legendary in our family. He was loving, but he didn’t tolerate anyone’s BS, especially three-year-old-me’s version of it.

During the course of our visit, my grandparents watched me a couple times while my parents did other things. At that age, I obviously had a limited amount of freedom, but what I did have I used to its fullest potential. Often I would explore the area around the house for hours. (I know. Huge surprise, right?)

The Wrong Tendencies

Yet at my grandparents’ place, my freedom was even more limited. There were more rules here. There were things you dare not touch, and a fireplace ledge that I wasn’t allowed to sit on. “How dare they!” My 3-year-old self thought. “I’m not hurting anything by sitting on it.” But it didn’t matter. As I soon found out, breaking any of their rules had consequences.

The most famous incident (and the one that my grandfather continues to tell to this day, even in his advanced age), took place during the visit I mentioned above.

Young kids like throwing things. So did I. And though I have no memory of this, apparently I threw an ashtray (or something like it) across the room. For some reason, my grandfather didn’t understand how absolutely fun it was to throw things when surrounded by large glass windows and a sliding glass door. He told me if I did it again, he would have to punish me.

I should have realized the potential consequences, but I was in the mood to test my limits. So a few minutes later, I threw it again within range of a whole bunch of glass. And so, he hit me with a paddle (or maybe a belt), and I cried.

Lesson learned, right? Wrong!

The Wrong Replies

Being somewhat of a strategic child, I told my mother about this. And apparently, she told me he wasn’t supposed to punish me directly.

When my grandfather watched me a second time, I was armed with that information. And as we were walking up the steps to the house, I explained to him (quite proudly, I might add) that he wasn’t allowed to punish me because my mother had said that he couldn’t.

He nearly laughed and then explained how this was his house. If I was going to spend time in his house, I was to follow his rules, especially the rules about throwing hard objects near large panes of glass. Otherwise, there would be consequences.

Thankfully, I realized that throwing things in my grandparents’ house wasn’t the best use of my time, and after that conversation I never did it again. Instead, I played with what few toys they had and explored their backyard, as well.

When it came to learning about so-called “tough love”, my grandfather was one of my first teachers. And even though he could be rough around the edges, he was always very clear and congruent with his reasons behind anything that he did. From a young age, he helped me understand personal boundaries. Since then, I’ve come an extremely long way, as I’m sure any one would say they have since age three. But the fact that we’ve all grown isn’t the point.

The point is the direction in which you grow. Since then I’ve learned to wield my power more constructively and grow in a direction that increased my freedom. I’m pleased to say I haven’t thrown an ashtray since; and even though I’m still a smart-ass on some occasions, I balance it with compassion now. 😉

Marching to the Wrong Drum?

What about you? Are you congruent with your own choices? Do you knowingly wield your Power to create Freedom? This ability is more valuable that gold-pressed latinum, but seeing in use is not nearly as common as it ought to be.

In some situations, your freedom is severely limited for very good reasons. The prime example of this is childhood. Obviously, when you’re a child you simply aren’t intelligent enough to fully realize the consequences (both positive and negative) of the actions you take, not to mention how those choices will affect others. And so, your free will is corralled and limited.

But as an adult, you have complete control to create your life as you see fit. Not all adults have consciously wielded this power to create what they want, but failure to wield your power doesn’t make you any less responsible for the quality and content of your everyday life. Or, put another way, you cannot be anything else but the captain of your ship, whether you realize it or not. As an adult, your power (and consequently your potential for freedom) has grown exponentially since you were a kid, but that only matters if you consciously wield it.

Too Long

If you’re reading this site, then travel has a place in your life, and it’s my job to encourage you to wield your power to make time to travel. It’s my job to remind you that your time on this planet is limited, and there are literally billions of experiences that await you.

What I write about here is a direct reflection of that mission. By writing about my explorations and sharing my sights, I do my best to inspire you toward what is possible when travelling. Yet in the past, navigating the wealth of articles within the Byteful Travel archives was rather clumsy.

No longer.

Although it’s been a long time coming, I’m really pleased to announce that the Byteful Guides are now fully operational. Some of the new features, such as the coding for the interactive map and its animation, took longer than anticipated, but I’m confident that focusing on these new enhancements will pay off.

By completing these updates, it helps everyone navigate the wealth of information on Byteful Travel much more easily than before. You may even discover a lot of information that you didn’t even know was here. The new features include:

  1. Interactive West Coast Quest Map
    • on the Archives page & the bottom of each West Coast article
    • includes a subtle animation to imply travel direction
  2. Easier to use Byteful Guides
    • wider map viewing area
    • reformatted attractions are now easier to click
    • an elegant graphical explanation of what pin colors mean
  3. Quest Mini-Map in the sidebar (which leads to the Quest Map)

As I say in the site intro, your time is limited. If you’re not a kid anymore, your freedom is in your own hands. So what are you waiting for? In a way, the world is a huge playing field, waiting for you to explore the game space. Even if you feel like you’ve been on the wrong road for a while, picked up the wrong tendencies, or are marching to the wrong drum, you can change that. In fact, you’re the only one who can. The question is: Will you wield your power and begin your odyssey (in whatever form is meaningful to you), or will you wait until its too late?

You will only have Freedom when you create it for yourself.

Ready to Explore?

USA West Coast map

5 bits on What almost shattering my Grandfather’s door taught me about Power & Freedom

  1. This really is a great article. I really like the way you told it and hope you post more great articles like this one in the future. Looking forward to your next post. Thanks!

  2. Nice! I really appreciate the information you provided here. I have also talked to others about the freedom of choice. I tell them about 80% of the population are doing what they are not ment to be, and are miserable. I tell them that if they did something that they truly enjoyed, and they would do it for free. By doing this you won’t mind doing long hours and you look forward to doing it. This is your passion and you’ll be great at it and also be an expert in this area. This is what I call total freedom.

    I’ll be sure to pass this post on to others. Thanks you so much, I enjoyed this so much.. 😉

  3. Beautifully said as always.

    This is something that I’m just starting to put into practice in my own life.. especially regarding my personal relationships. I’m learning that there is a vast importance in the way that you communicate your needs to someone; that, for example when someone asks for something from you, it is OK in most cases to let them know that you are not available at that time, but could be available at a different time and would be glad to help. And no hard feelings are created (as long as you’re not constantly blowing someone off). It’s given me a tremendous amount of freedom, and lifted a lot of guilt off my shoulders.

    Glad that this learning has been a part of your life as well!

  4. Pingback Lovely Word Vol. 40 « Writing as a Sacred Art
  5. Demi,

    Glad you enjoyed it. I put a lot of work into it, but I really enjoyed the process, too.


    It’s true. When you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work. I’m glad you enjoyed the article 🙂


    Very true. In my experience, Clear communication makes life easier for everyone, and raises your self esteem too. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂