By: James Fitzmaurice, sophomore at Bona’s

“Cause I’m as free as a bird now / And this bird you cannot change.” Although “Free Bird” is an all-time classic song, Lynyrd Skynyrd misunderstood the concept of freedom when he wrote it. During the 2023 men’s overnight, I saw truly free birds in both animal and human form.

One of the several memorable activities we did at the men’s overnight was feeding the chickadees. While I have fed the chickadees in the past, I never thought deeply about it until this overnight. Unlike most birds, these chickadees were fearless, as they had no reason to fear; all anyone had ever shown them was kindness. On their own time, the chickadees went from person to person and ate seeds out of their hands. Despite having no understanding of humans, they trusted us enough to let their guard down and eat out of our hands—a rare thing for birds to do.

The environment of Mt. Irenaeus frees all its inhabitants, not just the birds. Throughout the men’s overnight, I felt fearless, as I had no reason to fear; all the fellow men at the overnight had shown me was kindness. I naturally sparked conversations with close and distant friends that were the most genuine, meaningful conversations I have had all year. Despite not completely understanding each other, we trusted each other enough to let our guard down and express our feelings—a rare thing for men to do.

What Skynyrd misinterpreted is that instead of stagnating change, true freedom stimulates change. When we create an atmosphere that allows us to express ourselves without fear of judgement, we enable ourselves to learn from differing perspectives and experiences. In turn, this learning changes our outlook on life for the better. Every man and woman should spend an overnight at Mt. Irenaeus to feel real freedom—and from that freedom, change.