My Madre is not your average woman. She has been called a woman without inhibitions, and the description fits her well. Sometimes she just does things that you could only dream of doing, like that one time she called my junior high school janitor to repentance (he deserved it). Her lack of inhibitions has led her to have certain views on life, which has led to her views on raising children, which has led to her constant urging for us to get out of the "cool cage."
Now, the cool cage is a philosophical concept developed exclusively by Madre herself. The best way to explain it is by asking you to imagine a cage filled with trapped animals. Now, since this is a metaphor, the bars on the cage aren't made out of iron or steel, but rather they are made out of the fear of being uncool. Thus, this cage is unique due to the fact that all of its inhabitants are held captive by choice. The idea is that once you decide to be part of the social mainstream you are required to make certain limiting choices. No more Bach, no more Bradbury; like any prison your food, clothing, and daily activities have been pre-chosen and deviation is punishable.
When I was growing up, Madre was always eager keep her children safely outside of the cool cage's grasp, and warned us constantly about things that she felt would lead us to its captivity. Whenever we worried about doing certain things in order to be accepted into any sort of group, she warned us that the cool cage was near and ready to take prisoners. As a child I often reacted to her warnings with rolling eyes and shrugging shoulders, but it wasn't until recently that I truly realized how much Madre and her ideas about conforming to "cool" has changed the course of my life.
First of all, this gave me the unique experience of having a mother that never criticized the more eccentric ideas and resolutions that I have come up with over the years. When I told her that I was against ear piercings she compiled and presented to me a list of famous un-pierced women. When I continued to watch Star Trek long after the it stopped being a family ritual, she continued to encourage me to have the courage to enjoy the things that I liked. It was only when she my choices as wrong or limiting that she ever opposed, and this made it easier to pursue my interests outside of the home and eventually be the person that I have become.
Secondly, as a Mormon, it was inevitable that I would have to face certain challenges that severely tested my ability to be true to myself and my own sense of right and wrong. Outside of predominantly Mormon communities, being of a faith such as mine is a guarantee that I will never be truly accepted or understood by the majority of people that I meet. There have been many times that I have had to choose between my faith in Christ and His teachings and the friendships of my peers, and even more when my choices regarding worship has stained my reputation and coolness. But armed with the knowledge that my actions matter and that my choices are only mine to make, I was able to truly exercise my freedom to worship completely untainted by the inevitable social repercussions.
So maybe I was a geek in high school, and maybe I made my life a lot harder by being an individual instead of acquiescing to the wishes of the masses, but as I stand outside of the cool cage as the master of my own self, I believe that I know what freedom really means.
Best wishes, regards, and courage,